Photo taken on Dec. 3, 2014 shows two of the rhinos adopted by Chinese embassy in South Africa at National Zoological Gardens (NZG), in Pretoria, South Africa. The Chinese embassy adopted five rhinos on Wednesday in NZG of South Africa in Pretoria to protect the endangered wild animals. (Xinhua/Zhai Jianlan)
CAPE TOWN, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- South Africa lost a total of 1,028 rhinos to poaching last year, indicating that rhino poaching remains a serious concern in the country, according to statistics released on Thursday.
There has been a minor decrease in the number of rhinos poached nationally in 2017, compared with the previous year when 1,054 rhinos were slaughtered, Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa said in her rhino poaching report.
The Kruger National Park (KNP), one of Africa's largest game reserves in northeastern South Africa, continued to bear the brunt of rhino poaching, losing 504 rhinos last year, Molewa said.
This was 24 percent less than the 662 rhinos poached in 2016, she said.
"As a result of our anti-poaching strategy in the KNP, we are now seeing a decrease in the number of poacher activities in the park with a total of 2,662 recorded in 2017 compared with 2,883 in 2016," said the minister.
Whilst there has been a decrease in the number of rhinos killed in the park, the number of rhinos poached unfortunately increased in KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, Free State and North West provinces, according to Molewa.
The minister also reported some progress in curbing rhino poaching.
This included arrests, investigations and successful convictions of rhino poachers and smugglers, as well as the stepping up of technological and other interventions, Molewa said.
In the reporting period, a total of 502 alleged rhino poachers and 16 alleged traffickers were arrested nationally, bringing the total figure to 518, she said.
This represents a decrease from 2016 when a total of 680 poachers and traffickers were arrested.
"It would be important for us to mention that there has been arrests made for poaching-related offences from amongst our own personnel," said Molewa.
Regrettably, 21 officials were arrested in this regard during 2017, she said.
South Africa, home to about 90 percent of the world's rhino population, brought the rhino back from the brink of extinction in the 1960s and today has an estimated 20,000 black and white rhinos.
But persistent poaching is again threatening to wipe out the rhinos.
Molewa has warned earlier that South Africa's rhino population will be close to extinction by 2026 if no effective measures are taken to curb rhino poaching.