As efforts to curb poaching in South Africa’s Kruger National Park (KNP) continue, the reserve announced that they had arrested an impressive eight suspected poachers in just a single day last week.

The poachers were apprehended in different areas of the park, and all were found with a variety of equipment related to poaching, including hunting rifles and ammunition.

“KNP continues to experience a number of incursions and many other poaching-related activities on a daily basis,” said Glenn Phillips, managing executive director of KNP. “Our dedicated and committed anti-poaching teams, who are our ears and eyes in the bush, are always out there to quickly respond.”

This latest host of arrests follows positive news from last month, as figures released by the department of environmental affairs (DEA)  revealed both a decline in the number of rhinos poached over the first eight months of the year and an increase in prosecutions for poaching and trafficking.

Throughout the various provinces, 508 rhinos were slaughtered in the first eight months of the year. Although this number is still shockingly high, it’s a considerable drop when compared to 691 killed in the same time period in 2017.

In KNP itself, 292 were poached during these months, compared to 333 last year.

Just as important as the lives saved is the ability to prosecute and sentence for these crimes; fortunately, the legal system is also demonstrating progress.

“From January to August 2018 a total of 70 cases‚ involving 163 accused were finalized. The trials have resulted in 93% guilty verdicts‚ translating to 288 years in sentencing‚” reported DEA spokesperson Albi Modise, referring to KNP.

Although these numbers give hope to the continuing battle to save species like the rhinoceros and elephant in South Africa, rhino populations in the park are dropping.

“White rhino numbers in the park, however‚ continued to decline‚ with the population estimated at between 4‚759 and 5‚532 individuals during 2017. White rhinos‚ unlike black rhinos‚ were affected by the drought – with natural mortalities increasing from 1% to 1.5% during the drought‚ while the birth rate dropped from approximately 9% to 5% one year after the drought.”

Clearly, rhinos still walk the fine line between survival and extinction, but the people who fight to save every individual animal are not giving up.

“Wildlife crime should not be tolerated and needs to be stopped. We call upon poachers to weigh the risks of getting caught and we assure them that the gap is closing in on them,” says Phillips.