The slaughter of rhinos in South Africa hit a new record in 2014, with poachers killing 1,215 of the iconic savannah animals as Asian-led demand for their horn showed no sign of abating, authorities said Thursday.

The grim new tally, which was announced by Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa, represents a 21 percent jump on the 1,004 rhino poached in 2013.

“The figure remains worryingly high,” Molewa said.

The poaching of one of Africa’s “Big Five” animals, is driven by strong demand for their horns in countries such as Vietnam, where they are prized for their purported medicinal properties.

The claims, including that powdered horn can cure cancer, are scientifically untrue but have helped drive up prices to about a thousand dollars (790 euros) for a kilogramme(2.2 pounds) of a horn.

Global wildlife watchdog Traffic said the death toll — which translates to roughly three killings a day — have shown that “2014 was the worst on record for rhino poaching”.

The numbers killed “now raises concerns that rhino populations in South Africa may be in decline for the first time in nearly 100 years”, warned Traffic.

Over two thirds of the beasts killed last year were found dead in the famed Kruger National Park.

Members of the Kruger National Park Veterinary Wildlife Services in South Africa relocate a sedated white rhino from a high-risk poaching area to a safer location

In a bid to save the threatened animals, South Africa last year moved over 100 rhinos to “secure locations”, including neighbouring countries.

“Through this method we aim to create rhino strongholds, areas where rhino can be cost-effectively produced,” said Molewa.

ALSO READ  Iranian fuel seized by US to arrive in Texas

The poaching epidemic is not limited to South Africa. Neighbouring countries have also begun reporting rising numbers in rhino killings.

Last year, the Namibian government said it would dehorn most of its nearly 2,000-strong rhino population after a sudden spike in poaching incidents.

And Mozambique, which borders Kruger Park and is also used as a recruiting ground by syndicates, reportedly has no rhinos left.

Many of the poachers arrested in the park are Mozambicans.

-Legalising the trade-

Poaching has sparked a debate on whether to legalise rhino horn sales, but conservationists and regional governments remain divided on the issue.

Internationally, the rhino horn trade was banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1977.

South Africa is in the final stages of setting up a panel to consider the possibility of reversing the ban, at least partly.

“The panel will discuss … whether to trade or not,” said Molewa.

The poaching of one of rhinos is driven by strong demand for their horns in countries such as Vietnam

Poaching, she said, has become part of an “multi-billion-dollar worldwide illicit trade”.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said the killings highlighted the need for urgent international action to tackle the crisis.

“Killing on this scale shows how rhino poaching is being increasingly driven by organised criminal syndicates,” said the fund’s Elisabeth McLellan.

Rhino poaching in South Africa has sharply escalated since 2007, when only 13 rhinos were killed.

Although the recent figures are staggeringly high, South African conservationist Dex Kotze believes that they could be much higher because some of the dead animals are never discovered in Kruger, a vast park the size of Israel.

ALSO READ  North Korea is preparing to unveil new strategic weapon: Yonhap

“It’s not a true reflection of the actual poaching numbers,” said Kotze, organiser of the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos which took place in countries across the world in October. “The figure is much higher.”

Kotze is calling for harsher laws to combat poaching, saying there are “serious flaws in South Africa’s legislation.”

South Africa is said to be home to around 20,000 rhinos, some 80 percent of the worldwide population.

 

AFP

Share this article:
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Notice: All comments represent the view of the commenter and not necessarily the views of AMN.

All comments that are not spam or wholly inappropriate are approved, we do not sort out opinions or points of view that are different from ours.

This is a Civilized Place for Public Discussion

Please treat this discussion with the same respect you would a public park. We, too, are a shared community resource — a place to share skills, knowledge and interests through ongoing conversation.

These are not hard and fast rules, merely guidelines to aid the human judgment of our community and keep this a clean and well-lighted place for civilized public discourse.

Improve the Discussion

Help us make this a great place for discussion by always working to improve the discussion in some way, however small. If you are not sure your post adds to the conversation, think over what you want to say and try again later.

The topics discussed here matter to us, and we want you to act as if they matter to you, too. Be respectful of the topics and the people discussing them, even if you disagree with some of what is being said.

Be Agreeable, Even When You Disagree

You may wish to respond to something by disagreeing with it. That’s fine. But remember to criticize ideas, not people. Please avoid:

  • Name-calling
  • Ad hominem attacks
  • Responding to a post’s tone instead of its actual content
  • Knee-jerk contradiction

Instead, provide reasoned counter-arguments that improve the conversation.