The Namibian government said that in 2022, the number of rhinos that were killed for their horns reached a record high. Since 2021, the number of rhinos killed has increased by 93%.
According to new data from Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Tourism, 87 rhinos were killed in 2022, 61 black rhinos and 26 white rhinos. This is more than double the 45 rhinos that were killed the year before.
But the number of elephants that were poached has gone down “steeply,” from 101 in 2015 to only four in 2022. Most of the poaching cases that were reported happened in Etosha, which is Namibia’s largest national park.
Romeo Muyanda, the head of public relations for the Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Tourism, said in a statement –
“We note with serious concern that our flagship park, Etosha National Park is a poaching hotspot.”
In June 2022, Pohamba Shifeta, Namibia’s minister of environment and tourism, said that the agency was looking into staff at Etosha National Park because some of them were thought to be working with poaching groups that had recently killed 11 rhinos in the park.
“This is not a normal incident of 11 rhinos poached in such a short time”
– Shifeta said at a press conference at the time, adding the perpetrators had been arrested.
The new information has made conservationists all over Africa worry. Namibia has the third-largest number of black rhinos on the whole of Africa. Save the Rhino International, an organization that works to protect rhinos, says that only 6,195 black rhinos and 15,942 white rhinos are left in the world.
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The head of the International Rhino Foundation, Nina Fascione, told that she shares Namibia’s “serious concern” about the increase in poaching.
“Namibia has become a stronghold for rhinos in Africa with the largest population of black rhinos and the second-largest population of white rhinos in all of Africa”
– said Fascione.
“Poaching efforts are masterminded by well-funded criminal syndicates seeking to push rhino horn onto the black market to fund other illegal activities [and] as poaching efforts increase around the continent, white rhinos — the most populous of the rhino species — continue to decline in numbers.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a short, sharp drop in the poaching of rhinos, which are one of the world’s most endangered species. This was mostly due to lockdowns in national parks, which stopped people from going there. But as the world has become more open, there has been a worrying rise in poaching.
“Travel restrictions during COVID slowed down the poaching a bit but now we see a worrying rise, not only in Namibia but also here in South Africa,”
– Hanno Husch, CEO of Rhino Revolution — a South Africa-based rhino conservation charity — told ABC News.
“A possible explanation for the sudden increase of poaching could be the fact that there are hardly any rhinos left in the Kruger National Park.”
Kruger National Park is South Africa’s biggest park and has one of the biggest game reserves in Africa.
“Due to the fact that there are hardly any rhino’s left in Kruger National Park, which has lost over 70% of their population over the last decade, syndicates are now targeting Etosha, which is four times the size of Kruger.”
Paul Naden, a conservationist and director of Saving the Survivors, told that cartels and gangs trying to meet “relentless demand” for rhino horns, mostly from Vietnam and China, are driving up the number of poachings. Rhino horns are often used as traditional medicines and cures in Asia. They are also used as a sign of wealth and status.
“As the number of rhinos diminishes, the value of the horn increases, further fueling this demand”
– Naden said.
“A worrying state of affairs for Namibia and it should be a wakeup call to the world.”