South Africa cuts rhino poaching in half: Minister

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Johannesburg (AFP)

The number of South African rhinos killed by poachers fell by half in the first six months of the year, but 166 were nonetheless culled, the environment minister said on Friday.

And the number of incidents has started to rise again as coronavirus lockdown measures are relaxed, she added in a statement.

“In the first six months of 2019, 316 rhinos had been poached in South Africa,” said Barbara Creecy, Minister of Environment, Forests and Fisheries.

The figure represents a drop of almost 53%.

“We were able to stop the escalating rhino losses,” Creecy said.

South Africa has struggled for years against a scourge of rhino poaching fueled by an insatiable demand for their horns in Asia.

Most of the demand is from China and Vietnam, where the horn is coveted as a traditional medicine, aphrodisiac, or a status symbol.

The ministry attributed its success in slowing the poaching rate to a decade of various strategies and supply chain disruptions resulting from national travel restrictions during a nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

The famous Kruger National Park reported that 88 rhinos were killed in the first six months of 2020.

But Creecy warned that since lockdown restrictions were gradually lifted and game parks reopened, rhino poaching has slowly increased.

In the three months following the implementation of a lockdown on March 27 until the end of June, 46 rhinos were killed across the country, she said.

Rhinoceros horn is mostly made of keratin, the same substance as human fingernails.

It is normally sold in powder form and touted as a cure for cancer and other diseases.

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