A total of 1 175 rhino were poached across South Africa in 2015, compared to 1 215 for the year before. The majority of the rhino killed – 826 – were killed in Kruger National Park.
The news was announced by Edna Molewa, minister for environmental affairs, at a press briefing on Thursday.
It is the first time in nearly a decade that the number of rhino poached has not increased year-on-year.
Molewa said this was despite a continuing war between poachers and conservation officials: “I am pleased to announce that for the first time in a decade the poaching situation has stabilised.”
Last year was also unusually in that the spike in poaching in December – a pattern present in every previous year – did not come, she said.
That spike had seen continual jumps in the rate of poaching since 2007, where only 13 rhino were killed across the country. That number rose sharply to 1 004 in 2013 and 1 215 in 2014, before decreasing last year.
Data released by the South African National Parks Board found that, despite a thousand rhino being killed in each of the last three years, their numbers had stabilised. This meant that between 8 400 and 9 300 white rhino still roam the Kruger Park. A further 5 000 rhino are in the hands of private and communal owners.
Kruger Park has borne the brunt of poaching in the last few years, with poachers using the easy transit routes and open border with Mozambique to kill rhino and retreat before they are caught.
Molewa said a big part of the reduction had come about thanks to community engagement in anti-poaching initiatives. Her department would spend R7-billion over the next 14-years to better manage rhino populations. This would include a big drive to ensure rhino were transferred to previously disadvantaged communities and entrepreneurs, she said.