Around 1 312 rhino were poached and killed across the African continent last year. According to wildlife-monitoring group TRAFFIC, this makes last year the worst in recent history for rhino.
The increase comes during a time where South Africa has managed to stabilise its rhino poaching levels. Last year 1 175 rhino were killed in the country, a drop from the record of 1 215 in 2014. The country has the majority of the world’s rhino.
It is the first time in eight years that poaching levels in South Africa have dropped. But this has come at the expense of an increase in poaching in its neighbouring countries, such as Zimbabwe and Namibia.
Tom Milliken, from TRAFFIC, said in a statement: “The poaching epicentre has spread to neighbouring Namibia and Zimbabwe, but is nowhere near being extinguished in South Africa: despite some commendable efforts being made, we’re still a very long way from seeing the light at the end of this very dark tunnel.”
“For Africa as a whole, this is the worst year in decades for rhino poaching.”
The continent has seen similar extremes of poaching, but this was more than a century ago. It was only a last-ditch conservation effort by South African authorities which saved 100 white rhino and bred them to the current herd of about 20 000.
Most of these are in South Africa, with 9 000 rhino living in the Kruger National Park. Another 5 000 white rhino are in the hands of private owners.
Further populations are centred in Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya. All of these are under threat of poaching and require extensive anti-poaching operations to keep them alive. But poaching levels in all of these countries have increased.
Several smaller populations of rhino have already been declared extinct on the continent. The Western black rhino was declared extinct several years ago, and there are only three Northern white rhino left alive.