African rhino poaching rates have declined since 2018, but thousands are still being poached illegally, threatening the species’ future, experts warn.
In 2015, homicides peaked at 5.3% of the species’ population, but last year the figure dropped to 2.3%, according to a report.
The Covid-19 lockdown means poaching rates in 2020 will drop significantly in several African countries, the report authors say.
However, at least 2,707 rhinos were still poached across Africa between 2018 and last year.
“The overall decline in rhino poaching is encouraging, but it remains a serious threat to survival,” said Sam Ferreira, chief science officer of a group of African rhino experts. of these iconic animals”.
“To support the growth of rhino populations, it is essential to continue active anti-poaching and population management practices for all subspecies in the different range states.”
The report, led by expert groups from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the conservation organization Traffic, looked at changes in populations from 2018 to 2021. According to the report, one in 10 poaching incidents there were nine in South Africa, mostly white rhinos in Kruger National Park, home to the world’s largest population of white rhinos, a “vulnerable” species on the IUCN red list of endangered species threaten.
As a result, the number of white rhinos in Africa plummeted by nearly 12% – from 18,067 to 15,942 – between 2018 and last year.
In contrast, the rarer, critically endangered black rhino population has increased from 5,495 to 6,195 – just over 12%.
Overall, Africa’s rhino population has fallen from an estimated 23,562 in 2018 to 22,137 by the end of 2021.
South Africa lost 394 rhinos to poaching in 2020, while Kenya recorded no rhino poaching that year. It is said to have helped curb illegal hunting.
But as Covid travel restrictions were lifted, several states within range reported an increase in poaching. Last year, South Africa reported 451 cases and Kenya six.
In Asia, estimates of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino population have fallen from 40 to 78 to 34 and 47.
However, the report said there were no reports of illegal killing of Sumatran rhinos despite the large decrease in numbers.
About 11 rhino poaching cases have been recorded in Asia – 10 in India and one in Nepal – all of which involved vulnerable larger single-horned rhinos.
The report will be presented at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) meeting in Panama in November.