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The scourge of rhino poaching is hitting the economy the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said, as the department of environmental affairs released its final poaching statistics for 2014.

Black rhino and calf © WWF
Black rhino and calf © WWF

Rhino Programme Manager for WWF SA, Dr Jo Shaw, told Fin24 that the value of wildlife products illegally trafficked has been estimated at more than R284bn a year globally.

“The corruption associated with illicit wildlife trafficking, and the security threat posed may deter investment and hinder growth in all source, transit and demand countries,” she said. “Ultimately, the impacts of organised crime syndicates… can reduce the effectiveness of governments, harm the reputation of and trust in the state, and affect the growth of local communities.”

The 2014 statistics show that 1 215 rhinos were illegally killed in 2014, an increase of 21% on the 1 004 animals that were lost in 2013.

According to WWF SA CEO, Morné du Plessis, rhino poaching has been recognised on the international stage as a symptom of growing involvement of transnational syndicates in the trafficking of wildlife products.

“We recognise that this battle impacts our national security and economy and will need everyone to work together to combat these threats if we are to achieve a tangible reduction in rhino losses – there is no time to lose,” he said

South Africa is home to more than 80% of the world’s rhino at approximately 20 000 animals.


Reuters reported on Thursday that the Department moved about 100 rhino to unspecified neighbouring states as part of efforts to prevent further killings. At the media briefing on Thursday the ministry revealed that South Africa’s rhino horn stockpile – government and private – was around 25 tons.

Rhino horn is estimated to be worth more than gold and can fetch around R740 000 a kg.


Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa established a commission of inquiry to explore the possibility of legalising trade in rhino horn in 2013. She provided an update on the progress of the commission saying “pre-screening has taken place but final vetting has not taken place, we are working with the State Security Agency to fast-track this process”.

Yet the opinion is divided. Some argue that legalisation will weaken crime syndicates by forcing down the price and reducing demand, allowing proceeds to strengthen conservation efforts.

Others argue that demand for rhino horn will far outstrip any legal supply and there are also concerns that legalisation will send mixed messages to end-users, whose beliefs and behaviours conservationists are trying to change.

Read Africa Geographic’s magazine article on why legalising trade in horn will hasten the demise of rhinos.

Shenton Safaris
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