Rhino Poaching Surge Continues In 2011
South Africa has lost at least 193 rhinos during the first six months of 2011 with Kruger National Park continuing to be hardest hit. The world famous safari destination has already lost 126 rhinos to poaching this year in addition to 146 killed there in 2010.
“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.”
South Africa is home to the largest populations of African rhinos, including white rhinos and critically endangered black rhinos.
In response to the recent poaching crisis, law enforcement measures have been increased resulting in 123 arrests and six successful convictions so far in 2011. Last year South African authorities arrested a total of 165 suspected poachers and convicted four. Judicial proceedings are ongoing for many of the suspects.
“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.”
In June, neighbouring Swaziland lost its first rhino to poaching in nearly 20 years sparking fears that the crime wave could be spreading. Authorities in Swaziland arrested three suspects within days of the killing, but have since released them on bail.