Almost 500 rhinos are dying due to increasing poaching in South Africa

Nearly 500 rhinos died at the hands of poachers in South Africa last year, 11% more than in 2022. Despite the government’s efforts to prevent the illegal trade in horns, the Environment Ministry reported on Tuesday.

South Africa is home to the most rhinos in the world and poaching is widespread, driven by demand from Asia, where the horns are used in traditional medicine for their supposed therapeutic effects. The Ministry of the Environment stated that 499 of these thick-skinned herbivores died in 2023especially in state parks.

Most were hunted in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, home to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, the oldest reserve in Africa, where 307 individuals were lost.

“It is the largest poaching loss in this province,” Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said. “Multidisciplinary teams continue to work tirelessly to contain these pressures,” he said.

In recent years, authorities have tightened security measures around Kruger National Park on the border with Mozambique, whose rhino population has declined dramatically over the past 15 years. This led to a 37% decline in rhino deaths at the site in 2023, but at the same time pushed hunters into regional and private reserves such as Hluhluwe-Imfolozi.

Rhino horns are sought after on black markets, where the price per peso is compared to that of gold and cocaine. However, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reported last year that conservation efforts were leading to an increase in rhino numbers in Africa.

According to the IUCN, about 23,300 individuals roamed the continent at the end of 2022, up 5.2% from the previous year. According to estimates by the International Rhino Foundation, around 15,000 of them live in South Africa.

“These updated IUCN figures are encouraging, but progress will remain tenuous as the poaching crisis continues,” Jeff Cooke of the World Wildlife Fund said on Tuesday.

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