Lockdown is a life saver for SA’s rhinos as poaching slows

South Africa’s unique wildlife has been plagued by poaching. The horns and tusks of rhinos and elephants are still in high demand because in many cultures, ivory represents wealth and status. A study by the National Geographic society revealed that people who buy ivory don’t understand the harm behind the status symbol. Unfortunately legislative banning won’t stop a thriving black market, fuelled by buyers who will pay for ‘white gold’. The same study found that people in the US and the Philippines believe that governments will make sure that animals don’t become extinct. Essentially there’s a belief that it’s someone else’s problem. Around the world there have been reports of nature recovering during lockdown. Without tourism and human intervention, nature thrived in remarkable ways. In South Africa restricting the movement of people has had a positive effect on rhino and elephant populations. Poaching numbers have fallen for the sixth consecutive year. Melani Nathan

Rhino poaching in South Africa falls for sixth consecutive year

By Antony Sguazzin

(Bloomberg) – The number of rhinos killed by poachers in South Africa, which has the world’s biggest population of the animals, fell by 33% last year as restrictions on movement due to the coronavirus outbreak reduced incursions into game reserves.

Over the year, 394 rhinos were killed for their horns, which are smuggled to East Asia where they are believed to cure cancer. That’s a sixth straight year of a decline in poaching, the environment department said in a statement on Monday.

South Africa has about 20,000 white rhinos and some black rhinos, with most of the animals living in the Kruger National Park, a reserve the size of Israel that sits on the border with Mozambique. Of the rhinos that were killed last year, 245 were in the park. In addition to the lockdown, the department said it had boosted its anti-poaching activities.

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“After 10 years of implementing various strategies to combat rhino poaching by local poachers who are recruited and managed by crime syndicates, South Africa has managed to arrest the escalation of rhino losses,” the department said. “We cannot become complacent as the escalating demand in consumer countries ensures a lucrative black-market trade.”

There was also a reduction in the number of elephants poached last year, to 16 from 31 in 2019.

While rhinos are under threat from poaching, other species around the world are declining for a range of reasons. Habitat destruction from human activities or from man-made climate change is leading to a loss in biodiversity globally to the point that around one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction.

The United Nations is leading an initiative that calls for the protection of 30% of the planet by 2030 to prevent a mass extinction. Meeting the UN’s goals on natural habitat preservation and global warming would cut biodiversity losses in half, according to a research paper last year led by Conservation International senior scientist Lee Hannah.

Read also: Keep high-risk species like rhino off wildlife markets to prevent pandemics – AWF, Kariega

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