South Africa has been struggling to fight a variant of the coronavirus that has led to lockdowns across the country but the restrictions have also helped lower the rate of rhino poaching, BBC News reported.
Officials in South Africa say that poaching is down 33%, and that is partially due to lockdowns. Authorities said there were 594 cases of poaching in 2019, but one year later, that number dropped to 394, a significant decline.
“Law enforcement efforts alone cannot address the complex social and economic drivers behind the long-term threats to our rhinos,” said Dr. Jo Shaw, the senior manager of wildlife programs at the World Wildlife Foundation. “What is required is a commitment to a holistic approach which considers the attitudes, opportunities, and safety of people living around protected areas. The role of corruption, inevitably associated with organized crime syndicates, must also be addressed,” he said.
Officials in South Africa said that they did see a "significant spike" in poaching after lockdown levels eased, especially during the start of their summer in December.
About 80% of the world's rhinos live in South Africa, according to Save the Rhino.
Early in the pandemic, Inside Edition Digital spoke to Dr. Lynne MacTavish of the Mankwe Wildlife Reserve in South Africa’s Northwest province about how she and her team were working long hours to ward off poachers.
“We are doing our best during these circumstances,” she told Inside Edition Digital in April 2020. “Now that the parks are empty, the only people left are games guards and anti-poaching units, but this leaves the animals vulnerable.”
"Rhino horns are the most valuable commodity in the world,” MacTavish said, noting they are also considered by some as a sign of wealth and status.
One kilogram of rhino horn can fetch up to $60,000 on the black market, she said.
“South Africa classifies poaching as organized crime and it is much bigger than just local poaching, as terrorist organizations such as ISIS have funded it,” she said.
In an effort to protect animals at the wildlife reserve, MacTavish said she has begun trimming the animals' horns. The procedure drastically decreases the horn's value and is painless.
“The horn is like a fingernail,” she said.