Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Africa’s rhinos face worst poaching crisis in decades

Africa’s rhinos face worst poaching crisis in decades

25 March 2011

Well-equipped, sophisticated organized crime syndicates have killed more 
than 800 African rhinos in the past three years – just for their horns. With 
the most serious poaching upsurge in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya, 
Africa’s top rhino experts recently met in South Africa to assess the status 
of rhinos across the continent and to identify strategies to combat the 
poaching crisis.

“Although good biological management and anti-poaching efforts have led to 
modest population gains for both species of African rhino, we are still very 
concerned about the increasing involvement of organized criminal poaching 
networks, and that, unless the rapid escalation in poaching in recent years 
can be halted, continental rhino numbers could once again start to decline,” 
says Dr Richard Emslie, scientific officer for the IUCN Species Survival 
Commission’s (SSC) African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG).

South Africa alone lost 333 rhinos last year and so far this year has lost 
more than 70. Most rhino horns leaving Africa are destined for Southeast 
Asian medicinal markets that are believed to be driving the poaching 
epidemic. In particular, Vietnamese nationals have been repeatedly 
implicated in rhino crimes in South Africa.

Black rhinos (Diceros bicornis) currently number 4,840 (up from 4,240 in 
2007), whilst white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) are more numerous, with a 
population of 20,150 (up from 17,500 in 2007). Population numbers are 
increasing, however, with the rise in poaching, there is still cause for 
concern due to inadequate funding to combat well-resourced organized 

Rhino experts urged greater cooperation between wildlife investigators, 
police and prosecutors; magistrates and judges to be more sensitive to rhino 
issues; and assistance in developing new tools and technologies to detect 
and intercept rhino poachers and horn traffickers. While the number of 
arrests has increased there is an urgent need for improved conviction rates 
and increased penalties for rhino-related crimes in some countries.

The AfRSG commended recent initiatives to combat poaching. These include the 
establishment of a National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit in South Africa, 
increasing protection throughout the rhinos’ range, DNA fingerprinting of 
rhino horn, regional information sharing and engaging with the authorities 
in Vietnam. In addition, wildlife agencies are working closely with private 
and community rhino custodians, as well as support organizations, to protect 

“In South Africa, a large number of rhinos live on private land. Rhino 
management, including control of rhino horn stockpiles and security, needs 
to be improved and coordinated among rhino holders,” says Simon Stuart, 
Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. “This is essential if we are 
going to face the poaching crisis head on.”

In some countries, white rhinos are still hunted as trophies. The group 
noted that some professional hunters have demonstrated questionable and 
unethical behaviour, adding that improved management of the allocation and 
monitoring of hunting permit applications, especially in some South African 
provinces, needs urgent attention.


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