Jul 5

Nearly 200 rhinos have been killed in South Africa in the first half of 2011, according to new figures released by the national parks department.

Photo of Southwestern black rhinoceros male charging

Southwestern black rhinoceros male charging

Unprecedented levels

A record 333 rhinos were killed by poachers in 2010, and this figure looks to be exceeded in 2011 if the current rate of poaching continues. Kruger National Park continues to be the hardest hit, having lost 126 rhinos to poaching since the beginning of the year.

South Africa is home to the largest populations of African rhinos, including the white rhino and the Critically Endangered black rhino. The sharp increase in rhino poaching in the last few years is being fuelled by the demand for horns in Asia, where they are highly valued in traditional medicine.

Sophisticated criminal gangs

Poaching is being undertaken almost without exception by sophisticated criminals, sometimes hunting from helicopters and using automatic weapons,” says Dr Joseph Okori, WWF’s African Rhino Programme Coordinator.

South Africa is fighting a war against organized crime that risks reversing the outstanding conservation gains it made over the past century.”

Photo of adult and young eastern black rhinoceros drinking

Adult and young eastern black rhinoceros drinking

South African authorities have responded to the recent poaching crisis with more effective law enforcement measures, so far resulting in 123 arrests and 6 successful convictions in 2011.

We are pleased to see more successful convictions of poachers,” said Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF South Africa. “Applying strict penalties for wildlife crimes such as rhino poaching will demonstrate the South African government’s commitment to maintaining this important part of the country’s heritage.”

Photo of male southern white rhinoceros drinking at waterhole

Male southern white rhinoceros drinking at waterhole

Spread of poaching sparks further fears

However, despite this apparent step forward in convicting poachers, there are fears that the poaching surge shows no sign of flagging. Furthermore, Swaziland lost its first rhino to poaching in nearly 20 years in June, sparking worry that the crime wave could be spreading to neighbouring rhino range countries.

The poaching surge shows no sign of abating,” says Tom Milliken, Elephant & Rhino Programme Coordinator with TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring group.

Only a concerted international enforcement pincer movement, at both ends of the supply and demand chain, can hope to nip this rhino poaching crisis in the bud.”

Read the WWF Press Release.

Find out more about the black rhinoceros and the white rhinoceros on ARKive.

Helen Roddis, ARKive Scientific Text Author

  • Doug Norris (July 6th, 2011 at 9:04 am):

    The growing problem of Rhino poaching is going to take a truly international effort to address. The reason is that the actual poaching is only the start of a commercial process which finishes with end users paying ridiculous prices for keratin (the stuff of hair and nails).

    Those who profit will continue to promote the myth that because the keratin comes from Rhino it is somehow special.

    Those who take the risk of killing the rhino make the least out of their activities. The real money is made further down the chain.

    Somehow we need to get through to end users that they are being conned by manipulators hell bent on keeping the myth of the rhino horn alive. Hopefully that will kill the market and hence the demand.

  • Doug Norris (July 12th, 2011 at 10:45 am):


    This news item throws throws some light on the rhino poaching problem in Africa. It is very clear that the main beneficiaries of the rhino horn trade are people with considerable resources operating from outside Africa.

    The international reach of this trade threatens not only the wildlife itself but the livelihoods of many Africans who depend on tourism.

    If we want these magnificent creatures to still be around for our grandchildren we need the commitment of all countries to put an end to the trade in rhino horn.

  • ARKive blog - In the News: Organised crime decimating wildlife (July 28th, 2011 at 1:44 pm):

    […] body parts and products, such as rhino horn and bear bile, are just two of the much sought after items often destined for East Asian markets. […]

  • ARKive blog - In the News: Javan rhino driven to extinction in Vietnam (October 25th, 2011 at 1:54 pm):

    […] The plight of rhinos is not limited to Asia, and earlier this year several reports indicated that rhino populations in Africa were also facing their worst poaching crisis for decades. […]