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Africa sees rebound in rhino populations despite continuing poaching crisis

Published September 22, 2023
9 months ago

The IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG) has announced a silver lining amid the ongoing poaching crisis. An increase of 5.2% in Africa's rhino population by the end of 2022 marks an end to a decade-long decline, bringing the total number of rhinos to 23,290.

A significant milestone has been reached with the white rhino population, which has expanded by 5.6% to over 16,800, their first increase since 2012. There's also good news for the critically endangered black rhinos, whose numbers have climbed to nearly 6,500, showing a 4.2% rise from the previous year.

Poaching, however, continues to be a menace. Despite official records from Kenya showing a reduction in rhino poaching, the illegal activity is still rampant in other parts of Africa. For example, Namibia recorded a worrying increase in poached rhinos, with 93 incidents in 2022 compared to 47 the previous year. South Africa, a global stronghold for rhinos, noted a particularly notable loss of 438 animals in 2022.

A ray of hope has been cast by the African Parks conservation NGO, a Johannesburg-based operation that has acquired about 2,000 southern white rhinos. These will be rewilded into safe zones over the next decade, opening the door for a potential increase in the overall rhino population to up to 3,000 over this period.

Despite these encouraging developments, caution is warranted as the preservation of this magnificent species is far from secured. According to Dr Sam Ferreira, scientific officer at AfRSG, it is vital to continue "hard work of rangers and authorities" and to make rhinos relevant to local communities, ensuring that measures against poaching are discussed and decided at the community level.

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