Analysis of rhino poaching incidences and management strategies in South Africa.
Moneron, Sade Leigh.
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The illegal hunting and global trade in wildlife and wildlife products is a transnational, highly organised crime that threatens the survival of many endangered species. The rhinoceros is a well-known example of this trade as the demand for rhino horn for use in East Asia has resulted in the global decline of rhino populations, resulting in the Western Black rhino in Africa (Diceros bicornis longipes) officially being declared extinct in 2011. Although poaching has always existed, the number of African rhinos killed by poachers has escalated in the past eight years with at least 1 338 rhinos killed by poachers across Africa in 2015. This is the highest level since the rhino poaching crisis began in 2008, resulting in at least 5 940 African rhinos being killed. The majority of these incidences occurred within South Africa. South Africa plays a leading role in the conservation of the African rhino, currently conserving 83% of the African rhino population. However, it has been suggested that should poaching continue to increase as it has done over the past few years the rhino population in South Africa may begin to decline as early as 2016. South Africa’s upsurge in rhino poaching over the last few years has given rise to a kaleidoscope of debates on how to reduce poaching. An understanding of the different management strategies and their effectiveness would play a large role in identifying which method or combinations of methods work best to reduce poaching. The second chapter of this dissertation thus critically analyses the past, current and proposed strategies that are relevant to reducing incidences of rhino poaching using empirical literature from various scholars and stakeholders and attempts to provide insight into which strategy or combination of strategies is best suited to reduce poaching. As poaching involves a combination of aspects, it is clear that no one strategy or management tool will address all of these aspects on its own, and if implemented in isolation will not be successful. A combination of strategies that address all aspects of poaching needs to be working concurrently to decrease poaching levels. Law enforcement is one such management strategy crucial in the reduction of poaching and with increasing poaching incidents, law enforcement efforts in the form of deployment of anti-poaching unit, focused on high risk areas would provide for a more efficient and effective use of resources in reducing poaching incidences. The third chapter of this dissertation sought to investigate the spatial and temporal patterns of rhino poaching in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP) between 1990 and 2013 and examine the relationships between observed patterns of poaching and biophysical and human variables using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The results reveal poaching hot spots, and spatial and temporal variation in poaching incidences. Biophysical and human variables were also found to influence poaching densities differently depending on where they occurred spatially or temporally. The successful use of GIS in this analysis validates its potential as a geospatial tool for understanding the spatial and temporal distribution patterns of rhino poaching in the HiP. Understanding these patterns is crucial for future anti-poaching planning and mitigation of poaching activities with protected areas.