It said that, in response to the pandemic, countries around the world closed borders and restricted international and domestic travel. With an increased military and police presence, regular checkpoints enacted and government parks and private reserves closed to outside visitors, local poaching gangs found it risky to move people without raising suspicions, the foundation said.
International travel restrictions closed wildlife trafficking routes to China and Vietnam, the largest black markets for rhino horn.
The foundation said as lockdown restrictions started to ease in many countries, poaching was on the rise again, increasing concerns that the devastation of local economies and widespread job losses caused by the pandemic could push more people into rhino poaching.
The foundation said that in Africa, the black rhino population increased slightly, to 5,630 from 5,500 in 2019.
“The species remains critically endangered and at a fraction of the 65,000 historical population level in 1970. Only about 2,300 remained in the early 1990s, and the population is forecast to continue to make small gains,” the foundation said.
The foundation said in some local areas, gains may be higher than expected. It said Zimbabwe’s Bubye Valley reported 13.8%!p(MISSING)opulation growth during the first six months of 2020.
Africa’s other species, the white rhino, has been facing declines over the past two years because of intensive poaching.
“The population is estimated to be hovering around 18,000 animals. Concerns remain that the species will continue to face declines this year.”
The foundation said 900 rhinos were killed by criminals in Africa in 2018, nearly one every 10 hours. SA recently reported that poaching dropped from 319 animals in the first half of 2019 to 166 in the first half of 2020.
“The two species of African rhinos and other wildlife that reside in game reserves are dependent on protection and monitoring personnel for their continued safety,” said the foundation's executive director Nina Fascione.
She said state reserves had maintained salaries for rangers, but cut many critical operational expenses, including fuel purchases and overtime pay.
“Private reserves are dependent on tourism income and have had to make tough budget decisions. There is a growing fear that entire ranger teams may become ill or be forced to quarantine due to exposure to the coronavirus, removing essential staff from the field,” Fascione said, adding that as poaching increased, it was critical that protection and monitoring activities were maintained.
[Edited: 2021 Mar 19 17:01 - traveltalesofawoollymammoth:258356 - No URL's allowed]