The number of South African rhinos killed by poachers fell by nearly 53 per cent in the first six months of this year, partly due to the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown and disruption to international smuggling rings.
According to Barbara Creecy, the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, during the first six months of this year, 166 rhinos were poached in South Africa, compared with 316 in the same period of 2019.
"During the first six months of 2019, 316 rhino had been poached in South Africa. We have been able to arrest the escalation of rhino losses," Creecy was quoted as saying by Phys.org.
Fuelled by the insatiable demand for rhino horns, South Africa has battled a scourge of rhino poaching for years. Most of the demand comes from China and Vietnam, where the horn is coveted as a traditional medicine, an aphrodisiac or a status symbol.
According to Creecy, the reduction in rhino poaching is due to the success of "a decade of implementing various strategies, and campaigning against ever increasing rhino poaching by local poachers recruited and managed by crime syndicates."
According to CGTN Africa, for the first time in nearly 10 years, the Kruger National Park (KNP), one of Africa's largest game reserves in northeast South Africa, saw zero rhino killing in the Intensive Protection Zone in April.
However, Creecy warned that as the lockdown restrictions in the country have been gradually lifted and game parks opened, rhino poaching has slowly increased.
From the beginning of the lockdown on March 27 till the end of June 2020, 46 rhinos were poached across the country. Of this, 14 were lost in April, 13 in May and 19 in June, Creecy said. Meanwhile, in the KNP, 88 rhinos were poached in the first six months of 2020.