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Report that SA’s Kruger Park could lose 1000 rhinos is alarmist

Comments 7

The number of rhinos being poached each year in South Africa is rising worryingly. But the reports this weekend that Kruger National Park could lose 1,000 rhino in 2013 are alarmist. The facts show a much lower trend.

Researched by Julian Rademeyer

Eyewitness News have corrected their original report, stating that Kruger Park spokesman William Mabasa was referring to South Africa as a whole and not the park. At the current rate of poaching, South Africa is expected to lose between 750 and 800 rhino this year. 09/04/13.

The story that South Africa’s “Kruger Park could lose 1,000 rhino in 2013”, spread quickly on Twitter and Facebook this past weekend.

It was posted on the website of Eyewitness News (EWN), a division of media company Primedia, which provides news reports and bulletins to a number of local radio stations in South Africa.

A separate report by South Africa’s state broadcaster, the SABC, referred to “conservative estimates” which purportedly “show that as many as a thousand rhino could be poached this year” in South Africa.

SABC did not state the source of the estimate. However, the EWN story quoted a Kruger National Park spokesman, William Mabasa, saying: “If you look at the trends, by the end of this year we would have lost 1,000 [rhino].”

How many have been poached so far?

If the EWN headline were true, it would mean that poaching in the Kruger National Park would have more than doubled since last year when 425 rhino were killed by poachers in the park.

In total South Africa lost 668 rhino in 2012 – the highest number recorded to date in the country’s growing poaching crisis.

However, the most recent poaching figures, released on 3 April 2013 by South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs, stated that 203 rhino had been poached since the beginning of this year; 145 of them in the Kruger National Park.

If current poaching levels in the Kruger remain constant at just over one a day, it would mean that the park could lose around 575 rhino by the end of the year.This is just over half the number suggested in the report.

South Africa as a whole is losing just over two rhinos a day, well below the number suggested by EWN  for the Kruger National Park alone.

Kruger spokesman says up to 750 nationally

Contacted by Africa Check, the spokesman for the Kruger Park, Mabasa, denied saying that as many as a thousand rhino could be lost by the end of the year.

“No, that is completely wrong…We said 700 nationally could be lost…possibly up to 750,” he said.

Conclusion – the facts do not support the claim

While South Africa as a whole could indeed lose more rhino than expected by the Park spokesman, should there be a sharp upsurge in poaching, it seems highly unlikely – at the current rate – that the Kruger National Park would lose as many as thousand rhino by the end of the year.

The weekend report failed to take into account current poaching figures and trends.

Even if Mabasa was quoted correctly, the figure should have been more closely interrogated. He says he was not.

Edited by Peter Cunliffe-Jones

Following the publication of our report, Eyewitness News  changed the headline from "Kruger Park could lose 1,000 rhino in 2013" to  "SA could lose 1,000 rhino in 2013". They also added a clarification to the story, stating: "In the earlier version of this story, William Mabasa was quoted saying 'If you look at the trends, by the end of this year we would have lost 1,000 [rhino].' EWN would like to clarify that by 'we', Mabasa was referring to South Africa and not the park."

In a post on Twitter to Africa Check, EWN said: "We appreciate alerting us to the discrepancies. Our report was consistent with the information William Mabasa gave us on tape."  09/04/13.

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Comment on this report

Comments 7
  1. By Africa Check

    Thanks for your comment Amanda. The initial EWN headline stated that “Kruger Park could lose 1,000 rhino in 2013”.

    The most recent official figures from the Department of Environmental Affairs (6 November 2013) state that Kruger has lost 500 rhinos so far this year, half the number stated in the initial EWN article.

    EWN corrected their article and amended the headline after we published our report.

    You are correct in stating that South Africa as a whole may well lose in excess of 900 rhinos. It is an alarming figure and a grim new record.

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  2. By Amanda

    826 rhino total this weekend past. If an average of 75 rhino are poached a month, that means by year end it’s as close as damn-it 1000 rhino. 900 is hardly alarmist. Your headline refers to Kruger, EWN refers to SA.

    Who has played with their headline? EWN? AfricaCHeck? EWN’s little disclaimer at the bottom of its article is telling, suggesting that maybe it has altered its work.

    Perhaps the thread of this investigation needs to look closer at the reportage?

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  3. By Africa Check

    Thank you for the comment Karin. Sadly, it seems increasingly likely that South Africa as a whole could lose as many as 900 or a thousand rhinos this year. (Estimates in April, when we published our report, put the figure at about 800 countrywide by the end of the year. That could very well be surpassed.)

    The EWN report referred specifically to the Kruger National Park. So far this year, according to the most recent figures released by the Department of Environmental Affairs on 11 October 2013, the Kruger National Park has lost 450 rhino to poachers. I remains highly unlikely that the park will lose as many as a thousand rhinos by the end of the year.

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  4. By K. Robertshaw

    I’m reading this halfway through October 2013, and already this year 750 SA rhinos have been killed. Since nearly a quarter of the year is still to come, I expect that the average of 250 SA rhinos killed per quarter will be maintained in the last 3 months of 2013, and that it will become true that 1,000 SA rhinos will have been killed in 2013. I’ll revisit this article in January 2014 to see whether I’m right about this, although of course I hope that I am proved wrong.

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  5. By nosipho

    it is such a tradegy that these magnificant are bieng ruthlessly hunted into extinction.What about our children and grandchildren will they get to see the rhino or will only see them in pictures?

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  6. By Africa Check

    Thanks for your comment Margot. The rumour certainly merits further inquiry. We don’t know that every single carcass is found and, given the size of Kruger, it is likely that some carcasses are never found. But the statistics do appear to be relatively accurate. If a farmer were to shoot a rhino and bury the carcass without the necessary permits they could be charged with illegal hunting and violations of South Africa’s National Environmental Management Act.

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  7. By Margot Stewart

    Only time will tell… what about the rumour that calves with poached cows are being shot dead by the rangers and/or investigating teams? How do we know every single poached rhino is found and accounted for? If a farmer kills a rhino and buries the carcass on his farm – is that a poaching?

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