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Media Release: 2010 Worst Year for Rhino Poaching

Date: 11th January 2011

The Chief Executive Officer of South African National Parks (SANParks), Dr David Mabunda, announced at Pretoria today that in 2010 South Africa lost 333 rhino with 162 suspected poachers having been arrested in relation to the crime.

“The year 2010 will always be remembered as being one of the worst years for conservation in the Republic of South Africa (RSA) because of the ruthless assault on our rhino populations by merciless criminals”, said Dr Mabunda.

The worst hit areas were the Kruger National Park (KNP) with 146 rhino lost, North West province with 57 rhino, Limpopo province with 52 rhino, KwaZulu-Natal province with 38 rhino. The provinces with the least number of rhino or no rhino at all were least targeted by the criminals.

In the full year 162 people linked to the crime at various levels were arrested, ranging from actual poachers to couriers and kingpins. “The number of arrests made is considered to be an indication of the meaningful interventions brought by the National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit (NWCRU) and the collective co-operation by different stakeholders as the figure for arrests in the KNP alone for 2009 was 29 people and in 2010 the park arrested 67 suspects”.

Whereas SANParks lost 146 rhino in the KNP, the Provincial Conservation Authorities put together clocked 105 rhino whilst private game reserve owners lost 82 rhinos. Of the 333 rhino lost throughout the country white rhino comprised 323 of the animals poached and 10 black rhino.

The country is currently home to about 19,400 white rhino, of which between 9,000 and 12,000 of them are found in the KNP, and 1 678 black rhinos. The white rhino population in the country is growing at a rate of between 3% and 6%, whilst the black rhino population is growing at 3%. In the Kruger National Park alone natural mortalities in the rhino populations for males accounted for 1.7% and females 0.7% and with the inclusion of poaching figures it was at 3% for males and 2.1% for females in 2010.

Dr Mabunda announced that it is unfortunate that five (5) suspected poachers died during encounters with rangers on patrol in the KNP and one (1) in the North West Province as the country would have preferred these suspected criminals to have their day in court and account for their actions.

 “As much as the death of the poachers   is regrettable, it is also an indication of how serious SANParks and the entire conservation fraternity view the looting of the nation’s natural assets.

In the first 10 days of 2011 the country has lost five (5) rhino already; 2 in KNP, 2 in Limpopo and 1 in the Eastern Cape. A number of undisclosed arrests were also affected in the same period.

He said since the beginning of this year a total of five (5) more poachers have died when Rangers acted in self-defence after poachers opened fire on them at Crocodile Bridge (in the last week) and Pretoriuskop (today, 11 January 2011). “It is more worrying that Rangers are often greeted by the poachers’ fire power without warning luckily our men and women are well trained”.

“In 2011 the NWCRU is planning to increase the intensity of the investigations and arrests by getting to the higher echelons of these syndicates. With the help of the international community we are confident we will be able to break these syndicates.”

“SANParks is extremely grateful to the South African government, the new Minister of Water and Environment and the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans for the offer of support by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) for anti-poaching activities. The inclusion of the SANDF with their state of the art surveillance equipment will add much needed impetus to the fight against rhino poaching and other forms of poaching”, said Dr Mabunda.

Issued by:
SANParks Corporate Communications

For Media Interviews with Dr David Mabunda and other Enquiries contact:

Reynold Thakhuli, GM: Media, Events & Stakeholder Relations, tel: (012) 426 5203 / 073 373 4999 e-mail: reyt@sanparks.org

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