The number of endangered rhinos killed in Namibia reached an all-time high in 2022 after 87 animals were killed, up from 45 in 2021, government data revealed on Monday.
Romeo Muyunda, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, said poachers killed 61 black and 26 white rhinos. They were mainly killed in Etosha National Park; 41 rhinos were found dead there.
“We note with serious concern that our flagship park, Etosha National Park, is a poaching hotspot,” Muyunda said. He added that the ministry and law enforcement increased efforts against wildlife crime in the park in Namibia to prevent people killing rhinos.
Rhinos are generally solitary animals and are found in grasslands, savannas, and forests in Africa and Asia. Five species of rhinos exist: the black rhino, white rhino, Indian rhino, Javan rhino, and Sumatran rhino. All species of rhinos are considered endangered due to habitat loss and poaching.
There are 10,080 white rhinos in the world, and the animals are considered near-threatened, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Black rhinos are critically endangered, with only 3,142 individuals left in the world.
They are being killed for their characteristic horn, which is made of keratin (the same material as human hair and nails). Rhino horns are used for various purposes, but primarily for traditional medicine and as a symbol of wealth and status.
In some cultures, the horn is believed to have medicinal benefits and is used to treat fever and other diseases. However, there is no scientific evidence that rhino horn has medicinal properties, and trade in rhino horn has been banned internationally to protect the species from extinction.
Rhino poaching has been widespread in southern Africa for decades, especially in neighbouring Botswana and South Africa, leading to anti-poaching programmes, including the controversial de-horning -removing horns from rhinos to discourage poaching.