tribute fallen rangers SANPARKS
Skukuza Section Ranger – Kally Ubisi perform the wreath laying ceremony. Photos supplied

Minister of Environment Barbara Creecy today released the latest rhino poaching statistics for South Africa, whilst also paying tribute to SANParks’ rangers, including those rangers who tragically died over the past year.

Rangers salute to the commanders i.e. KNP Managing Executive – Gareth Coleman, KNP Head Ranger – Catherine Dreyer and Skukuza Section Ranger – Kally Ubisi
Rangers salute to the commanders i.e. KNP Managing Executive – Gareth Coleman, KNP Head Ranger – Catherine Dreyer and Skukuza Section Ranger – Kally Ubisi. Photos supplied.

Minister Creecy said:

“Today on World Ranger Day, we want to pay tribute to our rangers for the incredible work they do each and every day to keep our National Parks and our iconic species safe. We also want to pay tribute to eleven of our staff members at SANParks who lost their lives to Covid 19 over the past year.

“We find ourselves in a position where the efforts being made to combat wildlife crime, such as rhino poaching, are influenced to some extent by the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the battle to beat the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Regional Ranger, Marula North – Steven Whitfield pays homage to the KNP Rangers and Rangers throughout Africa (those who passed on and the living)
Regional Ranger, Marula North – Steven Whitfield pays homage to the KNP Rangers and Rangers throughout Africa (those who passed on and the living)

“In the battle to conserve our wildlife and halt poaching, it is our rangers who remain at the forefront, putting their lives on the line daily to conserve our environment and vulnerable species despite the additional risk of contracting Covid-19.”

“We also want to remember Field Ranger, Checkers Mashego whose lifeless body was discovered at the Kruger Park late last year. May the souls of all our SANPARKS staff and field rangers rest in peace after serving our nation with diligence and passion.”

KNP Staff members observe the moment of silence in honour of Rangers who have departed
KNP Staff members observe the moment of silence in honour of Rangers who have departed
KNP Ranger Corps team at the 2021 World Ranger Day
KNP Ranger Corps team at the 2021 World Ranger Day

Latest Rhino Poaching Statistics in South Africa

The Minister said that while the national lockdowns curbing the movement of people in 2020 contributed to a decrease in rhino poaching, the lifting of the stringent lockdown regulations appears to have seen an increase in rhino poaching in the first six months of 2021.

Rhino poaching statistics

  • From January to the end of June 2021, 249 rhino have been poached for their horn in South Africa. While this is higher than the number of rhino killed for their horns in the same period last year, at 166, it is less than the 318 rhino that were poached in the first six months of 2019.
  • During the six months, January to June 2021, the Kruger National Park experienced 715 poacher activities, an increase of 3.77% in comparison to the number in 2020, which was 689 for the same period.
  • From January to end of June 2021, 132 rhino were poached for their horns in the Kruger National Park. One elephant was poached for its ivory in the Kruger National Park during this period.

Rhino poaching arrests and prosecutions

A number of successful arrests and prosecutions have also been recorded in the past 6 months. This again underscores the success of the collaborative work being done by law enforcement agencies, said the environmental department. These include the police, the Hawks, SANParks, the Environmental Management Inspectorate or Green Scorpions, customs officials, SANDF, provincial park authorities and the National Prosecuting Authority.


  • From January to June 2021, 40 alleged poachers were arrested within the Kruger National Park.
  • A total of 125 people have been arrested for rhino poaching and rhino horn trafficking across the country in the past six months.
  • Numerous confiscations of rhino horn have also taken place since January, both within the country as well as at OR Tambo International Airport.
  • The cohesive partnership with the South East Asian countries is also showing concrete results with the recent collaboration between the South African and the Vietnamese authorities resulting in one of the largest seizures of rhino horns and other wildlife products, thereby disrupting syndicate activities, the department said in a statement on Saturday.
  • A total of 14 cases have been finalised since the start of the year with a verdict, representing a 93% conviction rate. The total of 14 convictions represented 20 convicted accused.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the finalisation rate in courts has slowed down as witnesses, accused and court staff in many instances are required to isolate or quarantine, and even court buildings in some instances need to be decontaminated. This has had an effect on the finalisation of cases.

“It is clear that the multi-disciplinary, integrated approach to investigating illegal wildlife trade is bearing fruit and that effective collaboration with critical role players remains key to our success,” said Minister Creecy. “I congratulate the teams on a job well done.”

She said the department remains aware that “criminal elements within our society continue to take advantage of the socio- economic pressures and drive demand for illegal wildlife products”.

Accordingly, the Department, working with a number of communities, NGO’s and donors, continues with various community developmental programmes, in collaboration with its partners, SANParks, Provinces and neighbouring countries.

She says the only long term sustainable solution to wildlife management and conservation is to ensure communities living on the outskirts of our national parks benefit from tourism and other opportunities.

The provincial and national breakdown for January to June 2021 (in comparison to 2019 and 2020) is as follows:

rhino poaching statistics South Africa
Rhino poaching statistics, South Africa.

Noticeable increased poacher pressure has been experienced in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Free State provinces. The Department is also monitoring the increased pressure seen on private rhino reserves and collaborating closely with the private sector which continues to play a significant role in rhino protection.

During the same reporting period over the last three years, losses in private parks constituted 15% of the total reported loss in 2019, 9% in 2020 and 30% so far in 2021.

** Members of the public can report any suspicious activities around wildlife to its environmental crime hotline which is 0800 205 005 or the SAPS number 10111.