While recent news has reported a decline in rhino poaching in certain African countries, South Africa has not followed this trend. A recent report shows that in the first six months of 2021, 249 rhinos in South Africa were killed by poachers for their horns. This is up from 166 poached rhinos during the same period in 2020. It is thought that rhino deaths were lower last year due to the strict lockdowns in place to try and slow the spread of COVID-19. These restrictions have eased up a year later, making it easier for poachers to begin their illegal activities again.
The report also shows that rhinos on private reserves appear to be a growing target. Private reserves house more than half of South Africa's rhino herds, totaling between 14,000 and 15,000 individuals. Of the 249 rhinos killed so far this year, 75 of them were from private reserves. In the past, these reserves have held the lowest poaching numbers due to having far better protections in place than those found in state-run parks. But the pandemic caused tourism revenue at these reserves to dry up, meaning they have less funds for additional security. This creates an opportunity for poachers to slip into protected areas that, in normal times, would be far harder to breach. Private reserves are also facing some operational difficulties caused by recent legislation, discussed in greater detail in the article.
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