Shocking new Statistics indicate the true extent of Rhino Poaching in the Kruger National Park

Anyone who is a regular visitor to the Kruger National Park would be able to tell you about the Rhinos they are increasingly NOT seeing, compared to previous years.

Every Wildlife lover knows that Rhino Poaching is unlikely to ever be eradicated completely. But some bought into the illusion that we are successfully reducing Poaching. This is a dangerous misconception.

The Poaching War is not over; we are not winning, and we need to wake up to face that sobering fact.

"KNP holds the largest population of wild Rhino in the world." According to these new, shocking statistics, it seems like we'll soon reach a point where this sentence is no longer true.

Whenever official Rhino Poaching statistics are made public, it never indicates the actual population count, so you have to dig a little to get to see the real picture. Historically, any decline in Rhino Poaching numbers from one year to the next, has been heralded as a win, but the problem is that these figures were never depicted as a percentage of the total Rhino population, neither in the Kruger National Park, nor in the rest of South Africa.

If we were winning the war on poaching, the percentage of Rhino Poached against the total population would be declining (not only the actual body count of animals poached). But it’s not. It’s staying alarmingly high in Black Rhino, and has escalated uncontrollably in the case of the White Rhino.

Black Rhinos in the Kruger National Park:

Total KNP Black Rhino Population decline:

The 2011 figure (508 animals) for the KNP Black Rhino Population implies a shocking 47% decline in Black Rhino Populations in the KNP over eight years, to 268 animals in 2019. Sources here and in SanParks Report (p96).

Figure 1: Black Rhino Populations in the Kruger National Park show a 47% decline from 2011 to 2019. © Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

KNP Black Rhino Mortality as a Percentage of Total Population:

Since 2012 there has been a decline in the KNP Black Rhino mortality rate from 9.8% of the population to 9.5% in 2019. These figures include poaching and natural mortality, but because of the low population numbers of Black Rhino, this decline is not good news. It still means that the population is steadily decreasing, and that can be mostly attributed to Poaching.

*Percentages were determined by using current year mortalities as a percentage of previous year populations.

 

White Rhinos in the Kruger National Park:

Total KNP White Rhino Population decline:

For White Rhinos the situations is even more concerning: Between 2011 (10621 animals) and 2019 (3549 animals) this is a shocking 67% population decline in 8 years. Aside from a slight increase in numbers during 2015, the downward trend is a tragic testament of Rhino lives lost. Sources here, here and in SanParks Report (p96).

Figure 2: White Rhino Populations in the Kruger National Park show a 67% decline from 2011 to 2019. © Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

KNP White Rhino Mortality as a Percentage of Total Population:

The following mortality figures used to determine percentage of remaining population poached include all causes of mortality, (natural, poached and unknown) but it’s obvious that the increased mortality rates are driven by Poaching. In fact the  natural mortalities only make up 10 to 20 % of the total mortality numbers. This means that it is a safe assumption that as much as 80 to 90 % of the total deaths are due to Poaching, with a negligible percentage of deaths due to Unknown causes. (For ease of reference we have not split up the Mortality numbers further into Poaching, Natural and Unknown Deaths).

In 2012 there was a mortality rate of 1.2% of the KNP White Rhino population, escalating to a staggering 18.6% in 2019. This is the worst news, as it indicates an upward trend in the Poaching statistics, which doesn’t show up in the Official Poaching Numbers.

*Percentages were determined by using current year mortalities as a percentage of previous year populations.

Figure 3: In 2012 there was a mortality rate of 1.2% of the KNP White Rhino population, escalating to a staggering 18.6% in 2019 © Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

One has to wonder why there is not much more of an outcry about these statistics. Why is this concept not being clearly communicated to the public? Would we not need all hands on deck to fight this? Knowledge is Power, so why is this Information deliberately being withheld from the public domain?

The animals' attitude towards visitors have also changed, sometimes subtly, but there is a definite difference in observed behaviour - especially with regards to the normally docile White Rhinos. Could this be due to an increased presence of poachers? It is widely reported that "drop-poaching is a preferred strategy, where the criminals pose as day visitors, enter unhindered through the gates, and drop the poacher(s) off. The occupants of the main vehicle used would also act as "spotters" and relay the position of vulnerable Rhinos to the poachers. Whether they enter through the border, whether they have informants inside or not - their methods are becoming increasingly sophisticated in order to avoid detection. They still carry on, leaving hundreds of dead Rhinos in their wake.

 

The Official Rhino Poaching Statistics for South Africa from 2007 to 2019:

Any reduction in Rhino Poaching numbers as celebrated in the media and issued by the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs, merely points to the deeper problem – the population numbers are now so low, that it is more difficult to find animals to poach.

Rhino Poaching Statistics South Africa - 2007 to 2019 ©Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

"These figures are misleading, and they have the effect of lulling the public into complacency under the illusion that we are winning the War on Rhino Poaching. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fewer Rhinos are getting Poached because there are fewer Rhinos remaining to Poach, and therefor they are more difficult to find." (WHWF)

According to a KNP Ranger who wishes to remain anonymous, as many as 8 – 10 fully trained and equipped poaching teams are on the ground in Kruger National Park every day. These insurgents have military training, are armed to the teeth, and they shoot to kill. It is truly a war.

The Rangers on the ground put their lives in danger for our Rhinos every single day. They are the ones who deserve our gratitude for an often thankless, soul-destroying job. It is the heart-breaking reality that they are fighting a losing battle.

Every South African Citizen, and every International Visitor who cares about our Natural Heritage should actively be supporting any anti-poaching efforts, and support Organizations who do their very best to fight this war. If not for us, then for Future Generations.

It is time that we wake up, and understand the concept that we are losing our last Rhinos, faster than we ever thought possible.

Support #WHWF Anti-Poaching Efforts here: Ref #Rangers

Written by CJ Carrington ©Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

Nobody in the World needs a Rhino Horn, but a Rhino ~ Paul Oxton (WHWF)

White Rhino photographed in the KNP, several years ago. © Paul Oxton (WHWF)

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