South Africa is home to Africa's largest population of rhinos.

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South Africa

Land

  • Quick Facts:

    Area

    121,909,000 hectares (1,219,090 sq. km.) (470,693 sq. mi.)

  • Key Landmarks

    Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park
    Cape Floral Kingdom
    The Vredefort Dome
    Kruger National Park

  • Wildlife

    Blue crane, Cape buffalo, elephant, lion, rhinoceros, leopard, kudu, cheetah, ostrich, black mamba, riverine rabbit

  • Primary Ecosystems

    Desert, savanna, montane grassland, forest

  • Population

    56,717,156 (2017)

    Tags: South Africa, Buffalo, Cheetah, Elephant, Kudu, Leopard, Lion, Ostrich, Rhinoceros, Great Fish River, Limpopo

Gallery
  • Limpopo Leopard Conservation Billy Dodson
  • Limpopo Leopard Conservation Billy Dodson
  • Limpopo Leopard Conservation Philip Muruthi
  • Limpopo Leopard Conservation AWF
  • South Africa
  • South Africa
  • South Africa Kathleen Fitzgerald
  • South Africa daryl and Sharna Balfour
  • Great Fish River
Overview

South Africa is one of the world’s most diverse countries.

The Republic of South Africa is in the southernmost region of the continent. Its long coastline stretches along the South Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean for more than 2,400 kilometers (1,500 miles). While its coastline is lush, the rest of its geography is vast, flat, sparsely populated, and dry. More than 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) south of the mainland lie the Prince Edward Islands, a small sub-Antarctic archipelago.

South Africa has the largest economy in Africa. Tourism is one of the country’s greatest sources of revenue. Unlike other African nations, agriculture accounts for less than 10 percent of the population’s employment. The land is so dry, that 43 percent of South Africa’s total rainfall only occurs on 13 percent of the land.

Megadiverse countries are those with a majority of our planet’s species. South Africa’s incredible biodiversity is ranked sixth out of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries. And, it has more than 20,000 different plants (which is about 10 percent of our planet’s known species) and a wide variety of mammals, including the endangered riverine rabbit.

Challenges

South Africa is losing rhinos to poaching at unsustainable rates.

South Africa is home to the largest population of rhinos on the continent, a fact poachers are capitalizing on. More than 80 percent of the world’s rhino population finds refuge in South Africa. In 2017, over 1,000 rhinos were poached in South Africa.

Despite unabated rhino poaching, the government recently passed legislation that allows the domestic sale of rhino horn. This legislation could prove disastrous for Africa’s already dwindling rhino populations.

Critical habitats are being lost through the unsustainable use of natural resources.

South Africa is losing natural habitat to overpopulation and development. Deforestation is reducing some forests to mere patches, and invasive alien species are also threatening the country’s rich biodiversity and its scarce water resources.

Solutions

Our solutions to protecting South Africa's unique biodiversity:

  • Poachers are the number one threat to Africa’s rhinos.

    The Hluhluwe iMofolozi Reserve located in Kwa Zulu Natal was founded specifically to protect the world’s remaining populations of rhinos. It had remarkable conservation successes and white rhino populations were even increasing. However, even in the most protected parks, determined poachers will still find a way in.

    When the provincial park experienced a surge in poaching in 2012, African Wildlife Foundation stepped in to equip and train the park’s rangers. With support from the Flora Family Foundation, AWF equipped rangers with all-terrain vehicles, metal detectors, digital cameras, tents, Maglite torches, and camera traps to better detect and fight poachers.

    With proper tools and training, rangers are able to use DNA technology to link carcasses to confiscated horns. AWF also supports the Great Fish River Nature Reserve by equipping rangers with vital equipment and supplies, improving their capacity to protect the reserve’s critical rhino population.

    As a result of improved anti-poaching patrols, South Africa saw a 26 percent decrease in rhino poaching between 2018 and 2017.

  • Empowering communities to engage in conservation.

    In 2003, AWF empowered a local community within the Limpopo landscape to take over management of the Mthetomusha Game Reserve.

    The reserve is an exclusive extension of the famous Kruger National Park, where poaching is still prevalent, and perched atop a granite mountain lies the luxury, community-owned Bongani Mountain Lodge. Linking local communities and community-based conservation has resulted in a decline in subsistence poaching.

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