Rhino Poaching On The Rise Again in South Africa

February 27, 2024

Poachers have shifted their focus to KwaZulu-Natal province which bore two-thirds of last year’s poaching losses for South Africa

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA, February 27, 2024 – Officials from South Africa reported that 499 rhinos were killed in 2023, an increase of 51 from the year before. 

“This is a stark reminder of the reality rhinos still face in the wild,” said Nina Fascione, the International Rhino Foundation’s (IRF’s) executive director. “The decrease seen in Kruger’s poaching numbers is commendable, but to see that progress canceled out elsewhere in South Africa is devastating.” 

Kruger National Park, once the hotbed of poaching activity, has seen drastic population declines in recent years making it harder for poachers to find rhinos. They have also taken strong action and have seen their poaching pressure ease “thanks to wide scale dehorning and and a no-nonsense approach to integrity management to counteract corruption,” said Elise Serfontein, Founding Director of StopRhinoPoaching.com and a senior advisor to IRF. There were 78 rhinos killed in Kruger last year, a 60% decrease from 2021. 

Poaching syndicates in South Africa have now shifted their focus to KwaZulu-Natal province, where state parks are managed by Ezemvelo Wildlife. There were 325 rhinos killed in KwaZulu-Natal in 2023, more than triple the number of deaths from two years prior and the highest ever recorded in this province. 

“There has been a worldwide out-pouring of support for over a decade to stem the poaching tide, with many lessons learned and shared. Ezemvelo’s leadership structures need to be held accountable for these unacceptable losses,” said Serfontein. “Rangers and managers are stretched beyond limits and take the blame (and risk) because of crippled systems and failed leadership. It speaks volumes that 307 rhinos – 60% of the total poaching losses for 2023 occurred in a single park, Ezemvelo-run Hluhluwe-iMfolozi.”          

More than 10,000 rhinos have been poached in South Africa over the last 15 years. “If we want rhinos to exist in the wild for our children and grandchildren, we need to act quickly and decisively to protect them. Rhino conservation is a shared responsibility that transcends borders and the International Rhino Foundation remains committed to protecting rhinos at every level in the fight against poaching,” said Fascione.

South Africa is home to approximately 80% and 33% of the world’s 16,800 white and 6,500 black rhinos, respectively.

Supporting charts and photos are available here.                


About the International Rhino Foundation (IRF): For more than 32 years, the International Rhino Foundation has managed, facilitated and funded conservation initiatives for some of the most threatened rhino populations throughout Africa and Asia. IRF focuses on scientific research, anti-poaching, habitat and population management, conservation breeding, community development and capacity building, demand reduction and legal training and support to fight illegal wildlife trade. For more information, visit rhinos.org



Stacy Strother

(202) 350-1610