African rhino poaching falls but illegal hunting still threatens species

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Hunting rates for African rhinos have declined since 2018, statistics show, but thousands are still being poached illegally, threatening the species’ future, experts have warned.

According to one report, in 2015, killings peaked at 5.3 percent of the species’ population, but fell to 2.3 percent last year.

The report’s authors say that the COVID-19 lockdown means that poaching rates have decreased dramatically in 2020 in many African countries.

However, at least 2,707 rhinos were still poached across Africa between 2018 and last year.

“The overall decline in rhino poaching is encouraging, yet it remains a serious threat to the survival of these iconic animals,” said Sam Ferreira, Scientific Officer of the African Rhino Expert Group.

“To support the growth of rhino numbers, it is essential to continue active population management and anti-poaching activities for all subspecies in the various range states.”

The report by expert groups from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and conservation organization TRAFFIC looked at population changes from 2018 to 2021. It said that nine out of 10 poached were in South Africa, mostly of white rhinos in Kruger. The national park is home to the world’s largest population of white rhinos, which are listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

As a result, the number of white rhinos in Africa fell by about 12 percent between 2018 and last year – from 18,067 to 15,942.

In contrast, the population of the rare, critically endangered black rhinoceros increased from 5,495 to 6,195 – just over 12 percent.

Overall, Africa’s rhino population declined from an estimated 23,562 in 2018 to 22,137 at the end of 2021.

South Africa lost 394 rhinos to poaching in 2020, while Kenya did not record rhino poaching that year. The lockdown is believed to have helped curb poaching.

But as soon as the Covid travel restrictions are lifted, some range states have reported an increase in poaching. Last year, South Africa reported 451 cases and Kenya six.

In Asia, estimates of the number of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino fell between 40 and 78 to between 34 and 47.

But the report states that there are no reports of illegal killing of Sumatran rhinoceros despite a large drop in numbers.

Some 11 cases of rhinoceros have been reported in Asia – 10 in India and one in Nepal – all of which involved one-horned rhinos.

The report will go to the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Citations) in Panama in November.

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