S.Africa’s Kruger Park sees drop in rhino numbers

South Africa’s world-famous Kruger National Park lost more than 350 rhinos — about 12 percent of its total — in less than two years, the country’s main opposition party said on Wednesday citing official statistics.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) said it was “deeply concerned” at the decline seen in figures provided by park officials during a parliamentary committee on Tuesday, and called on the government to step up its conservation efforts.

“This statistic flies in the face of claims that (the) government’s anti-poaching efforts in Kruger are adequate to deal with the current poaching epidemic,” the DA’s shadow environment minister Dave Bryant said in a statement.

The environment ministry did not reply to a request for comment.

South Africa is home to nearly 80 percent of the world’s rhinoceroses.

But it is also a hotspot for rhino poaching, driven by demand from Asia, where horns are used in traditional medicine for their supposed therapeutic effect.

Kruger National Park, a tourist magnet bordering Mozambique, has seen its rhino population decimated over the past decade.

The DA said data provided by South African National Parks showed rhino numbers in Kruger decreased from 2,809 at the end of 2020 to 2,458 today.

The figures suggest the park has lost almost three-quarters of its rhinos in less than a decade — according to non-profit Save the Rhino International, almost 10,000 of the animals roamed Kruger as recently as 2013.

Last month, the environment ministry said 259 rhinos were poached for their horns across South Africa in the first six months of 2022.

Environmental Affairs Minister Barbara Creecy said poachers were increasingly moving away from Kruger to private reserves, adding that of 69 people arrested for poaching and rhino horn trafficking, 13 were caught inside the park.

In August, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said that while poaching rates were going down across Africa, the survival of the rhino remained in grave danger.

Agence France-Presse

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