More than 6 000 rhino have been killed in Africa over the last decade and about 25 000 remain on the continent, according to a new report.
The Kruger National Park (KNP) is “the eye of the storm, accounting for roughly 60% of poaching incidents over the past seven years”, the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime said in its report released on Monday.
The park holds 8 875 southern white rhino and 384 south-eastern black rhino. These account for around 48.2% and 7.3% of the world’s white and black rhino.
Most of the animals were clustered in an “Intensive Protection Zone” in the south of the KNP.
“The park has lost more than 3 189 rhino to poachers in the last decade and the population now appears to be declining,” the report said.
The document is entitled “Tipping Point: Transnational Organised Crime and the War on Rhino Poaching”. The first part was released on Monday. The second part is set for release on Wednesday.
Written by seasoned investigative journalist Julian Rademeyer, the report is the result of a year-long investigation into criminal networks involved in the illicit wildlife trade. Rademeyer authored the best-selling book Killing For Profit: Exposing the illegal rhino horn trade, first published in 2012.
Driven by demand in Southeast Asia and China, rhino horns have become a black market commodity rivalling even gold and platinum in value.
The value of rhino horn can be as high as $65 000 (R932 243) per kilogram when sold on the black market of countries like Vietnam. On Tuesday, the price of gold and platinum per kilogram were roughly $43 765 (R626 601) and $35 504 (R508 324) respectively.
“Borders, bureaucracy and a tangle of vastly different laws and legal jurisdictions are a boon to virulent and versatile transnational criminal networks and a bane to the law enforcement agencies rallied against them,” the report says.
Nearly 80% of poaching in recent years has been concentrated on the south of the KNP. In 2015, officials recorded a 43% increase in poaching in the park compared to the previous year.
There were 137 armed “contacts” between poachers and rangers in 2015, compared to 111 in 2014. A total of 202 arrests were made in 2015.
KNP officials “conservatively estimate” that at least 7 500 poachers entered the park in 2015, compared to 4 300 in 2014.
There were an estimated 1 038 incursions in the first four months of 2016, compared to 808 in the same period in 2015.
According to official statistics, 826 rhino were killed in the park in 2015 – only three fewer than the previous year. – News24