Poaching and illegal trade in rhinos have receded in recent years, but serious threats to their survival remain, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said on Monday.
According to a report published by this Swiss-based organization, from 2018 to 2021, 2,707 rhinos have been illegally hunted on the African continent, the vast majority in South Africa.
According to the IUCN, the rhino poaching rate on this continent was 2.3% in 2021, against 3.9% in 2018. This figure continues to decline, from a peak of 5.3% in 2015.
Sam Ferreira, an African rhino specialist at the IUCN, explained to AFP that there is no formal analysis to explain the causes of this trend.
“But it is likely that a number of factors could lead to this slowdown, notably better local law enforcement cooperation, international collaboration between states … as well as an evolution in demand for antlers. rhinoceros,” he said.
According to this expert, “the reduction in illegal hunting of rhinos is encouraging, but it remains a major threat to the survival of these emblematic animals.”
In addition, it should be noted that statistically, 2020 is an “abnormal” year due to the covid-19 pandemic, as lockdowns and restrictions on trade and travel led to a reduction in poaching.
“While we cannot say for sure what impact the COVID-19 restrictions had on the rhino horn trade, 2020 represents an abnormal year with low levels of both detected illegal activity and low levels of law enforcement and government reporting. “, underlines Sabri Zain, from the organization for the defense of animals Traffic, which participated in the preparation of the report.
In 2021, for example, poaching increased again in certain countries, such as South Africa, where 451 rhinos were illegally killed, against 394 in 2020. However, these figures are much lower than 2015, when 1,175 rhinos were poached in this country.
Globally, the African rhino population has declined by 1.6% per year, from an estimated 23,562 individuals in 2018 to 22,137 at the end of 2021.
The total number of white rhinos –in the IUCN “Vulnerable” category– in Africa has decreased by about 12%, to 15,942 animals, while the populations of black rhinos –in “critical danger of extinction”- – increased by just over 12% (6,195 individuals).
In parallel with the reduction in illegal hunting, data suggests that an average of 575-923 rhino horns entered illegal trade markets each year between 2018 and 2020, compared to 2,378 per year between 2016 and 2017.
The report also examines rhinos in Asia where 11 animals were poached from 2018 to April 26, 2022, ten in India and one in Nepal. In this same period, the poaching rate has continued its downward trend that began in 2013.
At the end of 2021 there were just over 4,000 one-horned rhinos in India and Nepal. In Indonesia, 76 Javan rhinos lived in a national park and between 34 and 47 Sumatran rhinos in the wild.
According to the report, one-horned rhinos (India and Nepal) and Java (Indonesia’s national park) have increased their populations respectively by 3.7% and 4.4% per year between 2017 and 2021, while the number of Sumatran rhinos (Indonesia) decreased by 13% per year in this period.
Rhino survival is on the agenda of the 19th meeting of the International Conference on Endangered Species (CITES) to be held in November in Panama.