South Africa's poaching problem

GEMMA GATTICCHI

Animal poaching is the illegal killing of an animal, usually because the animal possesses something of value for humans. In recent years this practice has become a major threat to the survival of South African wildlife and tourism.

South Africa has the largest population of rhinos in the world and has suffered a 9000% increase in the growth of rhino poaching from 2007 to 2014. 2016 has seen a small decline in the rate at which poaching is increasing. The majority of this illegal activity has taken place in the Kruger National Park, which has also voiced its concerns over the rise of elephant poaching in the area, reporting that 30 elephants were poached this year between January and July, compared to the 46 elephants poached in the whole of 2016.

The Legislative Framework in Respect of Rhino Poaching in South Africa says that poverty is the major driving force of poaching. John Kaimoi, a 33 year-old Kenyan man convicted of poaching 70 elephants, says that his responsibility to his family forced him into poaching. Kaimoi says that he could sell one kilogram of ivory for $58 in a time of famine. Kaimoi went on to say that although the animal was dangerous “because of the situation that [he] was living in, [he would] risk it.”

Traditional Medicine has also played a major role in the rise of poaching. Recently two lions from the Kwaggadans lion enclosure in Limpopo were poisoned, and their mouths and paws were removed. According to the National Zoological Gardens of SA website, “Lions are being killed as a substitute for tigers so their bones can be sold as Chinese ‘remedies’.” The Grevy Zebra’s population has dropped from 25000 to 2500, due to the belief that their meat and fat can be used to treat diseases such as tuberculosis.

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa says harsher sentences are being handed out, even in cases of trespassing and possession of firearms and ammunition. Molewa says that an estimated 359 alleged poachers and traffickers have been arrested this year, 90 of these within the Kruger National Park itself. There have also been 22 convictions, and a total of 95 years in jail time handed down to alleged poachers.

 

Infographic: Sam Sherwood

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