Press release | 21 Sep, 2023

African rhino numbers are increasing despite poaching

Ahead of World Rhino Day on 22 September 2023, African authorities have estimated that there were 23,290 rhinos across the continent at the end of 2022, 5.2% more than in 2021. Nonetheless, at least 561 rhinos were illegally killed (poached) across the continent during 2022.

South Africa is still home to more rhinos than any other country but continues to experience high losses to poaching – 448 rhinos illegally killed in 2022 compared to 451 in 2021. Namibia detected 93 poached rhinos in 2022 compared to 47 the previous year. In Kenya, official figures showed that one rhino was poached in 2022, down from six the year prior.

A combination of protection and biological management initiatives have resulted in an overall tally of 6,487 black rhinos in Africa, up 4.2% from 2021. White rhinos now number around 16,803 animals, an increase of 5.6%. Notably, this is the first increase in white rhino numbers since 2012.

“With this good news, we can take a sigh of relief for the first time in a decade. However, it is imperative to further consolidate and build upon this positive development and not drop our guard,” said Dr Michael Knight, Chair of the IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG), which combined rhino estimates from various states to produce the continental tally.

Africa’s large animals, including rhinos, are important biodiversity and ecological drivers. They create habitats for other species, providing opportunities for future global restoration and rewilding options. Thriving wild African rhinos can also contribute to the livelihoods and well-being of local people, attracting tourists from all over the world, creating employment opportunities and contributing to economic development.

During this year, a project to breed white rhinos in an intensively managed setting, privately owned by Platinum Rhino, was sold to African Parks Foundation. Over the coming decade, African Parks and partners will attempt to rehome and rewild these 2,000 rhinos. It will be challenging to find and to secure safe, contiguous habitats for large rhino populations, but the opportunity will push conservationists to try novel and ambitious approaches to create safe habitats, including more rhino protection by local communities. The IUCN AfRSG will support and provide technical guidance towards African Parks’ plan to release rhinos in a structured and strategic way back into the wild. 

On World Rhino Day in 2023, we celebrate increasing the numbers of rhinos in Africa thanks to effective protection, management and generous donors. Save the Rhino International is co-ordinating an online event at 6pm GMT on 21 September 2023 to provide an update on rhino news over the last year. The main speakers will be Dr Sam Ferreira, Scientific Officer of the IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group, Dr Bibhab Talukdar, Chair of the IUCN Asian Rhino Specialist Group, Dr Jo Shaw and Jimmy Rutherford from Save the Rhino International.