NUMBER OF RHINO POACHING DEATHS AT HIGHEST LEVEL IN TWENTY YEARS
September 19, 2016
New Report Indicates Rhino Deaths Nearly Outpacing Births
A new report from international wildlife experts indicates that the confirmed number of rhinos poached in Africa has increased to 1,342 rhinos in 2015. This is the highest level since poaching began to escalate in 2008 when 262 rhinos were reported poached. These losses are the highest in nearly two decades.
The IUCN/SSC’s African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG), Asian Rhino Specialist Group (AsRSG) and TRAFFIC compiled the report for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora ahead of its upcoming Conference of the Parties in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The International Rhino Foundation’s Executive Director Susie Ellis says the report demonstrates the need for a multi-faceted approach to save these endangered species.
“This is troubling news as we approach World Rhino Day,” said Ellis. “Rhino champions need a team effort from around the globe to battle poaching, secure habitat, strengthen support for partner nations fighting to save rhinos, and educate people on how they can help. We urge people to join Team Rhino (teamrhino.org) to help execute a game plan that will score wins for the rhino.”
The report shows that poaching of black rhinos more than doubled from 2013 through 2015 due to increased losses in Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. For rhino numbers to grow, net population growth (natural births minus deaths) needs to exceed poaching levels. Thus, rhino populations cannot sustain poaching rates much above current levels. Researchers say that good biological management of populations to maintain or increase rhino productivity is essential in the face of high poaching levels.
Poaching in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, home to Africa’s largest rhino population, has been severe. Poaching in Kruger decreased for the first time last year, but this has caused poachers to target other countries such as Namibia, which lost 80 animals last year, and Zimbabwe, which lost 50 rhinos, as well as other areas within South Africa.
Other report highlights include:
- Mozambique, which shares a border with Kruger National Park, is the epicentre of rhino horn trafficking. Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe have made, or been implicated in, numerous rhino horn seizures over this period. Eight other countries have also been implicated.
- Vietnam continues to be Asia’s leading country of import. It accounts for some 20 percent of the rhino horns by weight or number, with 458 horns or horn pieces weighing 1,069.46 KG
- China consistently outperforms Vietnam in active law enforcement, making far more rhino horn seizures. China still, however, barely trails behind Vietnam in terms of consumption.
- In Vietnam, research conducted with 720 consumers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City found that rhino horn is mainly used as a luxury product to reinforce social bonds and affirm status.
“We commend the partner nations and organizations that are working to save our planet’s magnificent rhino species,” said Ellis. “But as this report indicates, we cannot let up on the efforts to eradicate the market demand for rhino horn as well as prevent the poaching that threatens the demise of entire species. Everyone can help. As we near World Rhino Day on September 22, Team Rhino members can help score wins – from sharing stories about rhinos’ plight to financially supporting conservation efforts.”
The report authors made several recommendations for participants to consider during the upcoming 17th Conference of the Parties, which begins September 24 in Johannesburg, South Africa. These recommendations include:
- South Africa, Mozambique, Vietnam and Zimbabwe should remain countries of attention. With the recent escalation of rhino poaching in Namibia, it too should join the list as long as poaching remains at levels of concern.
- Rhino crime prosecutions should ideally employ a combination of laws that carry the highest penalties, with prison terms (along with additional fines and asset forfeitures) rather than just fines.
- The issue of corruption is not receiving adequate consideration as a major factor behind rhino crime. Mitigation and prevention of systemic corruption within government regulatory, law enforcement and institutions that foster compliance and accountability of private sector players, need to be reviewed, reinforced or expanded to address rhino trade crime.
- When rhino horn destructions occur, their impact on horn prices need to be evaluated to ensure that they do not result in unintended negative consequences. Where destructions are to be carried out, they should also be subject to independent auditing, DNA sampling and certification that no stocks are part of ongoing investigations or pending court cases.
- India and Indonesia are encouraged to remain vigilant in their efforts to combat rhino poaching and curtail illegal horn trade.