Wildlife crime and rhino poaching in South Africa: a qualitative document analysis of patterns and frequency of visitations of adventurers

Keywords: Cell phone data analysis, Environmental crime, KZN Wildlife reserve, Rhino poaching, Wildlife crime, Wildlife trafficking


The study describes rhino poaching as an illicit anti-social behaviour that has constantly been on increase in South Africa. Predominantly, KwaZulu-Natal, and specifically Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, became a highly protected zone for biota and wildlife sustainability. However, with environmental crime becoming more sophisticated in this province, criminal justice and anti-poaching teams need to be more equipped continuously with the necessary tools and strategies, required to stand united against wildlife crime. The study adopted document analysis to explore the use of cell phone data records as a forensic investigative instrument for tracing the frequency and patterns of activities of the two largest syndicate groups of rhino poachers from Mpumalanga and Winterveld to Hluhluwe-imfolozi park. Findings unfolded that cell phone records are a viable cellular geographic tool for tracing the footprints, patterns of movement and activities of illegal rhino hunters, affecting the poaching levels at Hluhluwe-imfolozi Park. The study’s findings were incredibly insightful into the behavioural activities of poachers, being one of the first to broaden the lens of cell phone data analysis on this scale. Evidence from the movement analysis revealed that poaching depends on a multitude of factors, such as global pandemic, border control measures, poaching levels rising in reserves, decreased policing measures and a lack of proactive strategies. The study concludes that cell phone data records, considered in isolation, cannot be reflected upon accurately, as a panacea for wildlife crime, without supporting facts from police procedure of intelligence gathering, local knowledge and partnership with local communities. Lastly, within the specific study area, it allows a unique view and perspective of the travel patterns of very sophisticated and advanced syndicate groups, as well as creating room for additional deeply rooted studies of poaching activity and incursions in South Africa.


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Author Biographies

Kajal Singh, Environment House

Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

Sogo Angel Olofinbiyi, University of Venda

Department of Criminal Justice

School of Law


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How to Cite
Singh, K., & Olofinbiyi, S. A. (2022). Wildlife crime and rhino poaching in South Africa: a qualitative document analysis of patterns and frequency of visitations of adventurers. EUREKA: Social and Humanities, (4), 113-122. https://doi.org/10.21303/2504-5571.2022.002503