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Rhino poaching on the rise in South Africa, new figures show

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(PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA) — Rhino poaching increased in South Africa in 2023, the government said.

The new data, released by South African officials, shows 2023 saw a total of 499 Rhinos poached across the Southern African nation, an increase of 51 from to the previous year.

“During 2023, 499 rhinos were poached across South Africa, 406 were killed on state properties and 93 on privately owned parks/reserves/farms,” announced Barbara Creecy, South Africa’s minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.

“The pressure again has been felt in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province with Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park facing the brunt of poaching cases losing 307 of the total national poaching loss. This is the highest poaching loss within this province,” said Creecy.

Conservationists warn poaching syndicates have shifted their focus to KwaZulu-Natal province, where a total of 325 rhinos were killed in 2023. That’s “more than triple the number of deaths from two years prior and the highest ever recorded in this province,” says the International Rhino Foundation (IRF).

In a statement sent to ABC News, the IRF says the new statistics are a “stark reminder of the reality rhinos still face in the wild.”

South Africa is home to the world’s largest rhino population, with approximately 80% and 33% of the world’s 16,800 white and 6,500 black rhinos respectively, according to IRF figures.

But the latest figures also show South Africa’s Kruger National Park — the nation’s largest — once a hotspot for poaching, saw a decrease in poaching. The new data shows 78 Rhinos were poached there in 2023, a 3.7% decrease from 2022.

“The decrease seen in Kruger’s poaching numbers is commendable, but to see that progress cancelled out elsewhere in South Africa is devastating,” said Nina Fascione, executive director of the IRF.

Officials say they are working regionally and transnationally to combat poaching and wildlife trafficking, handing down verdicts in 36 cases, 35 of which resulted in guilty verdicts.

“The cases resulted in the conviction of 45 accused rhino poachers/rhino horn traffickers with a conviction rate of 97%,” said Creecy.

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