The number of rhinos killed by poachers has dropped in the first six months of 2020, the government has said.The government says this is due to travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.But there are warnings that, as lockdowns ease, the numbers may rise again.
The number of South African rhinos killed by poachers fell by half in the first six months of the year, but 166 were slaughtered nonetheless, Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said on Friday.
And the number of incidences had begun to edge higher again as coronavirus lockdown measures eased, she added in a statement.
"During the first six months of 2019, 316 rhino had been poached in South Africa," said Creecy.
The figure represents a drop of nearly 53%.
"We have been able to arrest the escalation of rhino losses," she claimed.
The country has for years battled a scourge of rhino poaching fuelled by the insatiable demand for rhino horns in Asia.
Most of the demand emanates from China and Vietnam, where the horn is coveted as a traditional medicine, an aphrodisiac or a status symbol.
The department attributed its success in slowing the rate of poaching to a decade of various strategies and supply chain disruptions that stemmed from national travel restrictions during the lockdown.
The famed Kruger National Park reported 88 rhino were killed during the first six months of 2020.
But Creecy warned that since the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions and with game parks reopening, so too had rhino poaching slowly increased.
In the three months from when the lockdown was implemented on 27 March until the end of June, 46 rhino were killed across the country, she said.
Rhino horn is composed mainly of keratin, the same substance as human fingernails.
It is normally sold in powdered form and touted as a cure for cancer and other diseases.