Namibia: Rhino Population Healthy, but Threatened

22 September 2020

CELEBRATING world rhino day alongside the rest of the world today (22 September), Namibia takes pride in its healthy rhino population growing steadily under the country's rhino conservation and management programme.

This according to minister of environment, forestry and tourism Pohamba Shifeta, who in a statement issued yesterday says Namibia currently hosts the largest population of southern black rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis) in the world.

The statement indicates that 61 rhinos were killed by poachers in 2016, 52 in 2017 and 70 in 2018.

In 2019, 45 rhinos were killed by poachers, which is the the lowest number since 2015.

Some 22 rhinos have been poached this year to date.

Shifeta says the country has a third of the entire remaining black rhino population on the planet, and the second largest white rhino population in the world, after South Africa.

"Namibia also has the largest population of black rhino in a protected area and the largest free-roaming population in the world," he says.

While the country's poaching statistics remain low, there is still concern about ongoing incidents.

For this reason, the ministry has determined that the best strategy going forward would be to dehorn as many rhinos as possible in poaching hotspots.

"It is also necessary to translocate rhinos out of high-risk areas to safer locations, thus establishing new populations and supplementing existing populations to stimulate growth and manage density-dependent factors," Shifeta says.

He says the black rhino has been listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature since 1996, but has since been newly categorised as near threatened as a result of the population across Africa growing at a modest annual rate of 2,5%.

"The future of the south-western subspecies and black rhino in general therefore largely depends on Namibia's ability to maintain adequate standards of protection and biological management for growth," Shifeta says.

Namibia's rhino conservation strategies concentrate on maximising species' growth rates, and aims to have both black and white rhino populations re-established in viable, healthy breeding populations, the minister says.

Furthermore, ongoing interventions by the government, communal conservancies, private custodians and non-governmental organisations have aided in the decline of rhino-poaching incidents in the country, although poaching remains a major concern.

"During the first half of this year 30% of the 88 arrests related to rhinos were pre-emptive arrests of suspects conspiring to poach -- before they managed to kill. Close collaboration with the prosecution is also leading to convictions with appropriate sentences. Six perpetrators were convicted in May 2020 in two cases of conspiring to poach rhinos," Shifeta says.

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