Picture: THE TIMES
Picture: THE TIMES

SA made significant strides in the fight against rhino poaching in 2018‚ the environmental affairs department said on Wednesday, with 259 fewer animals killed in 2018 than in the year before.

According to environmental affairs minister Nomvula Mokonyane‚ there were 769 rhino poaching incidents in 2018. This was the third consecutive year that SA has seen a decline in rhino poaching.

In 2017‚ 1‚028 rhino were killed for their horns.

"It is also the first time in five years that the annual figure is under 1‚000‚" Mokonyane said in a statement.

She added: "The decline is not only indicative of the successful implementation of the integrated strategic management of rhinoceros approach countrywide‚ but also a confirmation of the commitment and dedication of the men and women working at the coalface to save the species."

Of the 769 cases‚ 422 of them were inside a South African National Parks facility; 421 in the Kruger National Park‚ and one in the Marakele National Park.

Provincially‚ 142 were in KwaZulu-Natal (down from 222 in 2017) and 65 in the North West (down from 96). Poaching incidents increased in Mpumalanga‚ from 49 in 2017 to 51 in 2018‚ and in the Eastern Cape‚ from 12 to 19.

The Western Cape did not have a single poaching incident in 2018‚ as was the case in 2017.

"Although we are encouraged by the national poaching figures for 2018‚ it is critical that we continue to implement collaborative initiatives to address the scourge of rhino poaching‚" Mokonyane said.

Her ministry added that‚ from January 1 2018 to December 31 2018‚ 365 alleged rhino poachers and 36 alleged rhino-horn traffickers were arrested across the country. Of these‚ 229 were arrested inside and adjacent to the Kruger National Park‚ 40 more than the 189 arrested in 2017.

"There are currently 318 rhino poaching-related cases on the court roll involving 645 accused and 897 charges — 275 of these cases are trial ready‚" the ministry said.

It added that for 2018, the National Prosecuting Authority obtained convictions in 78 of the 82 cases that went to trial.