Illegal killing of African rhinos is on the rise with at
least 745 poached last year and over two a day being shot by
poachers so far this year, the International Union for the
conservation of Nature (IUCN) reported.
The Swiss-based inter-governmental body said the poaching
rate - driven by the Asian demand for the animal's horn for
use in Chinese traditional medicines - could threaten the
rhino's long-term survival.
"Well-organised and well-funded crime syndicates are feeding
the growing black market for rhino horn," said a statement
from Mike Knight who chairs a team of experts within IUCN
Special Survival Commission.
"High levels of consumption, and especially the escalating
demand in Vietnam, threaten to soon reverse the considerable
conservation gains achieved over the last two decades,"
IUCN says the two principal rhino species, the Black and the
White, total some 26,000 in Africa, just 5,055 Black rhinos
and 20,405 White.
Poaching of the animals between 2011 and 2012 rose by 43
percent for a total of 745 animals, bringing a decline of 3
percent in the total population, the organisation reported.
The statement said the crime syndicates involved in the
lucrative but illegal trade used Mozambique, from where many
poachers crossed into South Africa, as a major transit point
to ship the horn, mainly to China and Vietnam.
South Africa's Kruger National Park near the Mozambique
border is home to the world's largest rhino population. A
total of 668 rhinos were illegally killed in South Africa
last year, according to the IUCN.