n Acta Criminologica: African Journal of Criminology & Victimology - The impact of conservation crime on the South African rural economy : a case study of rhino poaching

Volume 31 Number 4
  • ISSN : 1012-8093


The impact of conservation crime on rural economies has, over the last two decades, grown increasingly negative. Conservation crime in all forms has pushed several animal species into the endangered category, with some onto the ‘nearing extinction’ or ‘extinct’ appendices of CITES. The negative impact of poaching and trafficking in wildlife has wider ramifications, not only as a whole on rural communities per se, but also touches on the growth of game park tourism and on the hospitality industry. As a result, it has a ripple effect on other aspects of rural life, inter alia, the sustainability and viability of game farming. In this context it refers to costs to park/reserve owners of securing (policing) and protecting the wildlife encompassed in protected areas. This article is an exploratory examination of the economic impact and other costs of combatting rhino poaching in South Africa – currently home to 75 percent of the remaining world rhino populations. The rising numbers of rhino being poached in South Africa (from a mere 83 in 2008 rising five years later to 688 in 2012 and breaking the 1 000 mark in 2013) – the majority in the Kruger National Park, but also on other state parks/reserves, as well as private game farms – has begun to endanger the economic wellbeing of certain national parks, private game reserves, and that of commercial rhino ranchers, in addition to impacting negatively on tourism. In an effort to combat the rising number of rhinos being poached, both the government, SANPArks and private game farm owners have been forced to invest heavily in additional armed game guards, surveillance and tracking equipment, improved security fencing and allied costs. The continued high levels of rhino killing also bring into question the future sustainability of stocking parks and game farms with rhino. Other costs have been linked to the dehorning of adult rhinos; the development of rhino forensic investigation methods and the collection of evidence and DNA samples from all rhino poaching crime scenes by a special unit of the South African Police Service. Allied costs being the deployment of South African Defence Force (SANDF) anti-poaching ranger and support units to the Kruger National Park. The upshot is that this poaching phenomenon is, in addition to its conservation impact, furtively coming to represent the nadir of rural economies and must as such be addressed as a matter of urgency before its fiscal ramifications become more manifest.

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