The deputy general of South Africa’s environment ministry Fundisile Mketini reported yesterday that a whopping 515 rhinoceri have already been poached in the nation this year. Last year the rhinoceros death toll in South Africa reached 668 – a record high that officials are afraid will be surpassed by the close of this year.  Poachers have been on the rise as the back market for rhino horn rises in Asia.

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South African rhinos have been victims of poaching in both the wild and on protected game reserves. The rhinos are hunted for their horns, which are believed by many in Asia to have medicinal properties. Earlier this week, 24 illegal rhino horns derived from South Africa were seized en route to Asia through the Czech Republic. The lot had an estimated value of $5.1 million.

The exorbitant price that the horns fetch is enough to encourage would-be poachers to defy the law and hunt the animals. Years of poaching has already led the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to declare the black rhino officially extinct. Other subspecies of rhinos are also at serious risk of extinction, including the Northern white Rhino and the Javan Rhino in Asia.

The rapidly increasing number of rhino poachings in South Africa this year is seriously alarming, and many fear that at this rate, the number will surpass last year’s record high. Although the army was deployed in places like Kruger National Park to intimidate poachers, their presence has done little to alleviate the killing of the rhinos there.

Via Phys Org

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