South Africa is one of the top countries for wildlife trafficking, and yet protected animal species are being targeted by poachers’ networks, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said on Friday.
According to WWF Endangered Species Conservation Specialist Carmen Warmenhove, due to this phenomenon, sustainable economic development is threatened and the country loses huge income.
Wildlife crime, particularly in relation to large animals such as rhinos, has a major impact on ecotourism, urging South African authorities to adopt a more efficient approach to wildlife conservation.
South Africa is considered a source and transit point for illegal trade in wildlife products including rhino horn, abalone, pangolins and ivory.
The country is home to nearly 80% of the planet’s rhinos, and has been hit hard by poaching networks that continue to decimate these endangered species.
According to official figures, more than 450 rhinos were killed by poachers in 2021 and 394 in 2020.
After drugs, human trafficking and counterfeiting, wildlife trafficking has become the world’s fourth largest criminal enterprise, the expert said.
“There is a large and profitable illegal wildlife trade, but because it is conducted in secrecy, no one can give accurate figures of its true value,” he continued.
A total of 259 rhinos were poached for their horns in South Africa in the first half of 2022, South African Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creasey recently said.
On his part, Director General of Law Enforcement, Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, Francis Grage, stressed that being a major tourist attraction in the country, wildlife plays an important role in maintaining balanced ecosystems and sustainability.
“Wildlife crime destroys biodiversity by threatening endangered species. It destroys biodiversity, destroys resources, disrupts tourism, reduces livelihoods and disrupts sustainability,” he said.
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