Rhino poaching numbers in national parks dropped by 33% in 2020 compared to 2019 numbers. 394 rhinoceroses were poached for their horns compared to 594 the year before.
South Africa decided to implement a long and hard lockdown to cope with Covid. This included no movement across provincial borders for a number of months and limited and only necessary movement locally with implemented curfews.
These significantly reduced poaching activities and incursions both within Kruger National Park as reported but also in other rhino areas. Within this initial Covid phase there was a small respite in the poaching crisis. Also with international travel being halted and countries’ borders closing this would have made moving any poached horn would be very difficult or impossible.
However, as the lockdowns were eased Kruger experienced a spike in rhino poaching and this would have also mirrored in the rest of the areas with rhinos. With restrictions being eased poachers could get back to business like everyone else.
However, the continued impact of Covid has meant that the conservation/ tourism/ wildlife industry is now having to cope with major economic difficulties. Rhino protection was expensive at the best of times. Without tourist dollars coming in paying rangers’ salaries, providing equipment, paying for security technologies, and paying for conservation has become very difficult and major cutbacks have had to be implemented. This now poses a new threat to rhinos as well as other species.
Without funds, it is difficult to protect and conserve species and their habitats and this has highlighted a major flaw within the conservation and wildlife tourism industry where conservation is completely dependent on tourism dollars and international funding. The current pandemic has shown how vulnerable these funding mechanisms for conservation are to the global crisis.
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