Botswana raised the alarm over a “deeply worrying” surge in rhinoceros poaching after two of the animals were killed in one week, bringing the total number of rhino deaths to nine since April.
While the size of the southern African nation’s wild rhino population is small compared to some of its neighbours, the government has been praised for the success of its conservation policies and has received rhinos from other countries to protect.
“We have been losing about a rhino a month to poaching, losing two in one week is unacceptable,” the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism said in a rare emailed statement to address poaching.
“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’,” the ministry said Wednesday.
Conservationists criticized the government earlier this year after it withdrew heavy weapons from its anti-poachning units and lifted a ban on wildlife hunting, a decision that was largely motivated by the threat to farmers posed by Botswana’s large elephant population. While Botswana plans on earning a higher income from trophy hunting, it won’t allow the killing of rhinos.
Anti-poaching forces have now made the protection of rhinos their highest priority, with two poachers having lost their lives during operations recently, the ministry said. Black rhinos are largely kept in private sanctuaries and their numbers are not publicly known.
Neighbouring South Africa, which is home to almost all of the world’s rhinos, said in February it recorded a 25% plunge in rhino deaths last year. The animals are targeted for their horns, which are believed in Asia to help cure cancer and boost male virility.
© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.