By Sipho Kings
In 2008, the number of rhino poached barely reached double digits. Last year, the number was 668 and will be about 700 when you read this, meaning an average of 2.7 rhino die every day. By the end of the year, between 900 and 1000 rhinos will have died for their horns.
This is despite a massive response from government and civil society. The department of environmental affairs – which runs SANParks, where most of the rhino have been killed – has worked locally and internationally to stop poaching.
Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has travelled to all the consumer countries and signed memorandums of understanding with Vietnam and Mozambique to combat poaching, and there is also growing international co-operation, mainly driven by the parallel slaughter of elephants across the continent – at least 25 000 were killed last year.
This year's meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) ordered several countries, including Vietnam and Mozambique, to make a dent in poaching. If they do not, they will be kicked out of the body and will not be allowed to trade in endangered species. This would be costly.
Molewa has said in the past that the current rate of poaching is just about sustainable. South Africa has 85% of the world's 25 000 rhino, but the death rate could exceed the birth rate by 2026.
"This is around the corner, and that is scary," she said. "I can assure you that we will not allow rhino to become extinct on our watch."
But accelerated poaching could hasten this. More....