• Protecting rhinos from poaching in South Africa

  • Protecting rhinos from poaching in South Africa

  • photo: Stop Rhino Poaching

    Protecting rhinos from poaching in South Africa

In Brief

Conservation Value:

South Africa is home to about 80 percent of the world’s ~28,000 remaining rhinos. Unfortunately, over the last decade poaching has led to rapid declines in the populations of the two species found in the country, the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis bicornis and D. bicornis minor) and the white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum). Today 93% of the world’s remaining white rhinos and 39% of world’s black rhinos are protected in South Africa. About one quarter of all rhinos are held within private reserves in South Africa.


Poaching of both rhino species is widespread across both state and privately-owned reserves in South Africa. The criminal syndicates that poachers deal with are often involved in other large scale transnational criminal activities that exploit gaps in the national law enforcement and criminal justice systems. In the face of continued protection efforts at reserves, the poaching threat evolves to outmaneuver anti-poaching efforts in protected areas.

Actions & Results:

The project is supporting select high-risk rhino reserves with strategic and technical support, starting with a comprehensive security assessment, identifying and managing risks, and operational and technical advice. To assist in this effort, ICFC’s partner Stop Rhino Poaching (SRP) formed a mobile operational unit that began operation in 2019. Although COVID-19 restrictions on travel resulted in rhino poaching numbers being lower in 2020 than in 2019 (394 vs. 594), this still meant that a rhino was poached every 22 hours in South Africa in 2020. Over 62% of poaching losses occurred in Kruger National Park (KNP). To address this, the SRP surveillance (high-definition radar) operational unit was deployed at KNP. SRP also travelled to eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) in 2020, to oversee a tracking dogs and handler training course and the deployment of a new SRP tracking dog for Big Game Parks, which manages three game reserves in the country. In 2022, despite experiencing a lot of delays due to COVID and other logistical disruptions, SRP was able to carry out the delivery of its specialized training courses for ranger corps and managers at selected rhino reserves (e.g., Welgevonden Game Reserve). This emphasis on training for conservation-minded staff marked the beginning of a new and inclusive approach to combine the best conservation knowledge, skills, and practices—with force multiplying technologies—to help safeguard remaining rhino populations at selected high-risk protected areas. This new approach will also promote more effective working relationships between staff at private game reserves and local law enforcement authorities, to help curtail ongoing rhino poaching in the country.


rhino reserves across South Africa


To reduce poaching of white and black rhinos in South Africa to advance the long-term survival of these species.

Project Field Partner:

Stop Rhino Poaching


Cumulative cost to ICFC (2019-2022): CA$442,324

This project is funded by the Elliott Family Foundation, to whom we are grateful for making this important work possible.


Click to enlarge an image

white rhinoceros ceratotherium simum (photo: SRP)
white rhinoceros Ceratotherium simum (photo: SRP)
white rhinoceros, Ceratotherium simum (photo: SRP)
rhinos (photo: Margo Welch)

In More Depth...

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