Source: Isimangaliso.com

While reports over the last few days claim rhino poaching in South Africa is marginally down for 2015, some conservationists warn it’s too early to tell and say the government might not be releasing figures regularly to create the impression that poaching is not a problem.

Source: Isimangaliso.com

“The Department of Environmental Affairs’ decision to not release stats regularly has had the desired result in that most people in SA (and possibly abroad) are under the impression that there is no poaching crisis in SA,” said conservationist Allison Thomson of Outraged SA Citizens Against Poaching. “We need to change this by ensuring that mainstream media are made aware of what is going on here. Please do you part in sharing posts and circulating among your friends on facebook.”

A report a few days ago that was widely circulated in international media quoted Elise Daffue, founder of StopRhinoPoaching.com, saying – although the sources were not identified – that there were about 1,160 reported cases of rhino poaching in 2015, down from 1,215 in 2014.

If true, that would be the first annual drop in numbers since rhino poaching surged around 2008 in South Africa.

“I do not believe the numbers have dropped but in actual fact increased,” Louise Joubert of SanWild Wildlife Sanctuary told SAPeople.

“I also believe that the government has succeeded in their objective of distributing misinformation with the objective to mislead the public and the international conservation community,” she said. “They cannot be trusted and obviously have a hidden agenda. If they were serious to end rhino poaching and were indeed winning the war, there would be no reason not to be forthcoming with monthly stats accurately reflecting the number of animals lost.”

When Prince Harry visited the country in December, he was quoted after a visit to Kruger National Park saying that as of 2 December the figures for rhino poaching this year were much higher than the 1,160 being reported elsewhere.

“Already this year 1,500 rhinos have been killed in this country,” he said. “That is four every day.

Thomson said she had sent a query to the prince asking for his sources.

“Until the DEA releases official stats,” she said, “I will be unable to compare their provincial breakdowns to the stats I have collected to ascertain whether the information that is circulating is anywhere near the truth or not.”

On New Year’s Eve, according to news reports, a man in Zimbabwe was sentenced to 35 years in jail by a magistrate in Masvingo for being part of a gang that killed two rhinos in the south of the country. Conservationists in Zimbabwe welcomed the news.