Rhino poaching rises again in South Africa

Almost 250 rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa in the first six months of 2021.
Almost 250 rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa in the first six months of 2021.

Rhinoceros poaching is back on the rise in South Africa this year after a year of coronavirus disruption in 2020.

Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said officials had recorded 249 cases of rhinos being poached through the end of June.

"While this is higher than the number of rhino killed for their horns in the same period last year, at 166, it is less than the 318 rhino that were poached in the first six months of 2019," the national parks authority Sanpark said on Saturday, which is also World Ranger Day.

Since so many people were under coronavirus lockdowns in 2020, the lower numbers that year are considered to be an aberration.

Looking at attacks on all kind of animals in the country's Kruger Park, officials recorded 715 poaching incidents through June, about four per cent more than the year before, when 689 were recorded.

Overall, 125 people were arrested for poaching or smuggling rhino horn. Twenty have already been sentenced.

"In the battle to conserve our wildlife and halt poaching, it is our rangers who remain at the forefront, putting their lives on the line daily to conserve our environment and vulnerable species despite the additional risk of contracting COVID-19," said Creecy.

Kruger Park is one of South Africa's most important tourist attraction and wildlife reserves. It is one of the continent's biggest natural parks. It was created in 1898 by the president at the time, Paul Kruger.

Australian Associated Press