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Media Release: Rhino poaching - a global phenomenon, not only synonymous to KNP

28 May 2010

The South African National Parks (SANParks) said in a statement today (Friday, 28 May 2010) that rhino poaching throughout the country has escalated at an alarming rate since the beginning of the year.

To date South Africa has lost 92 rhinos, with the Kruger National Park (KNP) being the hardest hit in terms of numbers at 33, followed by the North West Province at 18 and 12 from the Gauteng Province. The least hit province has been the Eastern Cape Province with two rhinos. The provinces protected areas put together lost 32 rhinos while the private sector lost 27 rhinos. In total four black rhinos were also lost to this scourge.

The Kruger National Park is home to approximately 9,000 to 12,000 white rhinos of the approximated 19,000 strong population and between 580 and 650 black rhinos of the estimated country population of 1,670 black rhinos. The other national parks with rhino populations collectively have an estimated 124 white rhinos and 107 black rhinos collectively.

South Africa has seen an escalating assault on its rhino populations in the last three years, with the first alarming spike having been experienced in 2008 with the loss of 83 rhinos, a sharp rise from the mere 13 rhinos lost the previous year. South Africa lost a further 122 rhinos in 2009. This is the highest level of poaching of rhino horn that has ever been experienced by the country.

Thus far 25 suspected poachers have been arrested, with 17 having been arrested in the KNP, 5 in Gauteng and 3 in Mpumalanga Provinces.

Dr David Mabunda, Chief Executive Officer at SANParks, said that it is important for South Africans to be vigilant everywhere in the country because this is a problem that is escalating throughout the world and not only a problem at the Kruger National Park alone as is the impression that seems to be coming through. It must be understood that not only does the KNP house the majority of rhinos resident in any one property in the country but it also holds about 300km of the eastern international border of the country. This makes it easier for such criminals to elude the arm of the law by escaping into the neighboring countries.

SANParks appreciates the return of the army to patrol this border and it is hoped that with their intervention at least one of the escape routes for these wildlife criminals will be made near impossible to breach.

Dr. Mabunda said having recently visited Tanzania, he was saddened to hear that a population of over one thousand Eastern African Diceros Michaeli sub species of rhino has been reduced to ten rhinos since 1960. “Rhinos are under siege from marauding poachers all over the world. Asia and India are suffering the same trend of these species being driven to near extinction through poaching.”

He further explained that in response to the seriousness of the rhino poaching scourge in South Africa affecting both public and privately owned nature reserves and conservation agencies Environmental Affairs Minister, Buyelwa Sonjica, has set up a National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit (NWCRU) intended to deal with all environmental crimes.

This unit consists of SAPS Organised Crime Unit, SANParks Environmental Crime Unit, the Provincial Conservation Anti-Poaching Unit and Prosecutors at a national and provincial level. The unit will function with extended powers to include the expertise of the National Director of Public Prosecution to fast track successful prosecution of suspects.

“This move by the Minister will also enable the various conservation agencies, including privately owned game reserves, to populate poaching incident reports and allow for accurate national poaching statistics, something that is key to the appropriate management and eventual reduction of this problem.”

Dr Mabunda said this means that very soon the country will be able to identify problematic areas more effectively and direct resources accordingly.

“We are dealing here with organized crime and hardened criminals linked to notorious syndicates that the SAPS and Interpol are also looking for. We know that our combined efforts will reap fruitful results in the near future and SANParks stays committed to making every effort to wipe-out this assault that is threatening our natural heritage.”

Issued by:

SANParks Corporate Communications on behalf of the office of the Chief Executive, Dr David Mabunda

Media Enquiries:

- wanda mkutshulwa, Head of Communications, SANParks, tel: (012) 426 5201, cell: 082 908 2692 email:

- Reynold Thakhuli, General Manager: Media, Events & Stakeholder Relations, tel: (012) 426 5203, Cell: 073 373 4999, e-mail: