Rhino poaching numbers increasing, private rhino owners targeted

Rhino poaching numbers increasing, private rhino owners targeted

The Department of Environment, Fisheries, and Forestry released the latest rhino poaching statistics on 1st August for the period of January to June 2021 and the numbers show a 50% increase compared to 2020. The environment minister, Barbara Creecy, admitted that 249 rhinos had been killed between 1st January and 30th June this year. The 2020 period from January to June saw only 166 rhino poached. It is believed that the low number of 166 was thanks to covid hard lockdowns during this period when provincial borders were closed and travel heavily restricted.

While this pandemic pause gave many rhino owners a respite from poaching, most knew it was only a matter of time before the poaching again continued at full throttle. However this time it seems that the focus of poaching has changed to target private owners over Kruger’s rhinos. In 2020 the private rhino owners experienced 10% of the targeted poaching but in 2021 it has increased to 30% of poaching’s in private rhino reserves.

The last time private rhino owners were hit hard by poaching gangs was in 2014 to 2015. With Kruger having lost maybe up to 70% of its rhino populations, rhinos under private ownership have become significant for the species survival. However, there is now a fear that many private rhino owners may decide to disinvest and sell their rhino because of the increased poaching threat, increased security costs and danger it presents to themselves, their families, staff and land. If this happens to any significant level this will add another level of pressure to rhino populations and their future survival.

To decrease poaching Kruger National Park have been experimenting with dehorning rhino cows in an attempt to lower the poaching potential of these individuals. The poaching of female rhinos impacts the species further than the poaching of males because of the further loss of potential future offspring known as collateral damage.  It is hoped that this proactive method will have knock on effects for the population numbers because breeding females are then the least attractive individuals to poachers. This experiment may also be contributing to why poachers have changed their targets to privately owned rhino rather than Kruger’s rhino.


We need funds for cameras
Over the past five years Save the Waterberg Rhino along with our partners have implemented a security strategy to create a monitored area using camera technology. This has had amazing impact in our area as it gives ‘live’ information to security personnel 24/7 so that responses to poaching threats can be immediately responded to.

However, we need more cameras.

It is critical that we add in more cameras to the network so that the ‘monitoring net’ does not have gaps or weak spots. While one monitoring point is not cheap you’d be amazed at how funds can add up –  R50 / R100 / R200 / R500 can make any difference. Never underestimate your contribution.

With poaching likely to increase and private rhino reserves now becoming the number one target it is more crucial than ever we get the Waterberg strategically covered with live monitoring points to secure rhino in the area.

If you can help please contact Kelly at kelly@stwr.org.za


Rhino ‘kingpin’ arrested again for dealing in rhino horn

Johannes (Dawie) Groenewald and Schalk Steyn (AB Steyn) were arrested on Wednesday 25th July for being in possession of 19 rhino horns with an estimated value of R2.6 million (> US$180,000).

They were both granted bail of R50,000 each. However, this is not their first arrests. In 2010, they were both arrested along with Groenewald’s wife, two veterinarians and professional hunters in connection to illegal rhino-poaching operations stretching over four years.

Eleven years later this is still an ongoing case. With numerous trial date postponements stacking up and many defence team tactics to slow down the legal process, any convictions could still be a long way off!

Even with insurmountable evidence and information against Groenewald he has managed to stay ahead of all legal processes. The United States Department of Justice in 2014 wanted to extradite Groenewald and his brother, Janneman, to face criminal charges, including money laundering and violating environmental laws. However, a Limpopo court refused the extradition order and his arrest by Interpol.

Groenewald has not only been arrested directly because of suspected rhino poaching but has also been linked to a Czech poaching syndicate operating between South Africa and Vietnam, although he has denied any knowledge of the outfit.

He has also, thanks to all the postponements, had about 60 charges against him dropped because of the ruling to lift the domestic trade ban in South Africa which makes domestic trade in horn legal.

More information can be found at the following links.



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