The recently released rhino numbers from Kruger National Park have shocked the rhino conservation world. There is obviously a large discrepancy in reported poaching numbers and actual poached rhino numbers over the last few years. This is hardly surprising as in the vast expanse of Kruger Park many poached rhinos were probably never found. There may have also been an over-estimation of rhino numbers, to begin with as numbers were based on census methods and not actual total numbers. (Finding every individual rhino in an area like Kruger is an impossibility).
While conservationists welcomed the news about the decline in poaching over the last couple of years many believe it actually shows a general decline in the number of rhinos in the country. With fewer rhinos, there would be expected less poaching.
Kruger Park is home to the world’s largest rhino population however, the released numbers from its 2019-2020 annual report of 3,529 white rhino and 268 black rhino is distressing, this has meant its number of rhinos has declined by 59% since 2013.
This is grave news for the white rhino species that has bared the brunt of poaching since 2008. With more than 8900 known poached rhinos plus an unknown amount over the past 14 years, the majority of the killing has been the white rhino. While not critically endangered like the black rhino these animals tend to graze and frequent open grassy areas and are fairly relaxed around vehicles and people and are therefore easy for poachers to approach and kill. This has now meant there are more deaths than births of white rhino so their population is now in decline.
If the poaching continues even in its declined rate of recent years the white rhino and eventually the black rhino will be reduced to numbers similar to the Asian rhinos, in particular, the Sumatran rhino which only numbers about 80 individuals, and the Javan rhino which numbers less than 60 individuals.
However, there are many committed people working every day to protect rhinos and their future. The increased use of dogs and technology has also meant more effective tools are now available to combat poaching and this has had a positive effect on reducing poaching in many places.
Rhinos are close to extinction, but it’s not too late to save them.
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