IRF works with local partner, Stop Rhino Poaching (SRP), to protect and grow the population of black and white rhinos through monitoring, anti-poaching efforts, and community involvement.

South Africa accounts for about half of the total black rhino population on the African continent and is also home to the world’s largest population of white rhinos. Currently, 2,056 black rhinos and 12,968 white rhinos are estimated to remain for a total of more than 15,000.

Following a welcome respite during COVID, poaching is again on the rise in South Africa. A staggering 259 rhinos have been poached for their horns in the first six months of 2022. This is 10 more than the 249 poached countrywide in the first six months of 2021. Kruger National Park, home to the largest population of rhinos in the world, reported that 82 rhinos were poached during this period.

Due to its large population of rhinos, expansive size (making it challenging to protect), a shared border with Mozambique and being surrounded by poor, heavily populated local communities, the Kruger National Park has been targeted by poachers since the current poaching crisis began in 2008. More recently though, poaching syndicates have increasingly shifted to other state, provincial and private reserves, especially in the KwaZulu-Natal province where the majority of rhinos have been killed this year. This could be because of the significant population declines reported for black and white rhinos in Kruger last year. Fewer rhinos makes poaching more difficult. That, combined with ongoing anti-poaching efforts and wide-scale dehorning in the Greater Kruger area, has led poachers to shift to hunting in other regions.

Rhino Operations in South Africa

Our annual conservation operations include:

  • Boots on the Ground
  • Special Training
  • Early Warning and Community Involvement
  • Investigation and Forensic Techniques
  • Rhino Dogs
  • Law Enforcement Crackdown
  • Poaching Deterrents
  • Translocating Rhinos to Safety
  • Intensive Monitoring and Tracking
  • Demand Reduction

Latest News from South Africa

South African poaching statistics for the first half of the year show a loss of 210 rhinos on state properties and 49 in privately-owned reserves. KwaZulu-Natal recorded a loss of 133 rhinos to date in 2022, which is more than triple the 33 rhinos killed there in the first six months of 2021 but perhaps comparative to 2017 when they lost 222 for the year.

State and private rhino owners are increasingly dehorning rhinos to deter poachers, and SANParks is investigating the feasibility of additional actions, such as new anti-poaching initiatives focused on apprehending poachers and establishing additional founder populations outside the Kruger National Park. 

In the first six months of 2022, there have been 69 people arrested in connection with rhino poaching and rhino horn trafficking. Of these, 13 alleged poachers were arrested in the Kruger National Park. The arrest rates for poaching activities are concerningly lower than in previous years.

In 2021, there were 189 arrests in connection with poaching activities: 77 within Kruger National Park and 109 outside the Park. This compares to 156 people arrested countrywide in 2020. In the 38 verdicts handed down by the courts, 37 cases resulted in the conviction of 61 accused rhino poachers and traffickers. 

Higher level arrests and seizures are a result of greater coordination between police forces and increased enforcement activities at OR Tambo International Airport to intercept shipments. South Africa has also collaborated with authorities in Malaysia and Qatar to arrest a major rhino trafficker, illustrating increased country-to-country collaboration.

Tourism is rebounding in the country, but economic losses from the pandemic have placed a strain on protection and monitoring activities. The AfRSG recommendations for the country include adapting resources and plans to meet the current crisis, reducing corruption in the court system and increasing cooperation and coordination with other countries in combating illegal wildlife trade.

Africa’s close-knit conservation community and partners from around the world have been reeling since Anton Mzimba, head ranger at the Timbavati reserve in South Africa, was gunned down in front of his family while at home on July 26th. Mr. Mzimba had been named Field Ranger of the Year and is the protagonist of an upcoming documentary film, “Rhino Man.” 

While this is, sadly, not the only murder of a wildlife ranger in 2022, the nature of this incident has stoked concerns that criminal syndicates may be growing more brazen and violent in their efforts to secure illegal wildlife products. IRF sends our heartfelt condolences to Mr. Mzimba’s family and others who have lost their lives in the line of duty. IRF also extends our deep gratitude to all the brave men and women who put their lives on the line fighting to protect rhinos and other species.

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