The last two weeks have been devastating for RCB and our partners as two more rhinos have been poached in the perceived safer zones of the Okavango Delta, bringing to 9 the total number of rhinos poached since April this year. We are alarmed, to say the least, by the ability of these professional poachers to penetrate so far into Botswana and to specifically target our recovering rhino populations. As with many other rhino populations in southern Africa, this poaching appears to be well supported by professional criminal syndicates and the poachers themselves are hardened and expert hunters.
We are committed to assisting the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) and the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) with a rapid response to the escalating poaching situation.
See below for the full press release issued by the Botswana Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism.
PRESS RELEASE – BOTSWANA RHINO’S UNDER SIEGE AS SECOND RHINO IS POACHED IN ONE WEEK
Gaborone, Botswana (4 October 2019) – A rhino was killed on 2 October, following a recorded poaching incident on 27 September in the core rhino range in the Okavango Delta. This poaching incident brings the number of rhinoceros poached this financial year alone from 1 April 2019 up to now to nine (9), an unprecedented number.
The increased poaching of rhinos is deeply worrying in a country that has over the last few years received rhinos in an effort to safe guard and revive rhino populations. “Botswana does not have many wild rhinos, our population is relatively small” said Dr. Mmadi Reuben, Department of Wildlife and National Parks Rhino Coordinator in Botswana. “We have been losing about a rhino a month to poaching, losing two in one week is unacceptable. If the poaching continues at this rate there will be no rhinos in Botswana in a year or two, especially the black rhino a ‘critically endangered species’.” This will be a huge loss for the country with a strict and strong anti-poaching policy, which the Government has committed immense resources.
The anti-poaching forces have now placed the protection of rhinos and location of these poaching gangs as their highest priority, with two poachers having lost their lives during operations recently. However, as is well known, the Okavango is a very large area with difficult wetland terrain, which these poachers are using to their advantage. Engaging the communities in the Okavango Delta to increase awareness as well as private sector and NGOs will also be crucial in the fight against wildlife crime.
Rhino poaching has been on the increase in the region with South Africa possibly being the worst hit. Namibia also recently recorded poaching of rhinos as well. Rhino poachers it seems have now turned their attention to Botswana.
The Government of Botswana will continue to improve efforts, and is committed to mobilizing more resources to combat and eradicate this scourge. The public and affected (host and nearby) communities in particular are encouraged to report any suspicious activity to the nearest Department of Wildlife or Botswana Police office.