Business, Finance & Economics

South Africa: rhino poaching at record high, WWF says

A white rhino grazes at the Kruger National Park in South Africa.
Credit: Erin Conway-Smith

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — A record number of rhinos have been killed by poachers this year in South Africa, the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) said Thursday.

Statistics from South Africa National Parks show that 341 rhinos have been lost to poaching in the first 10 months of 2011, more than the record of 333 killed last year, according to WWF.

Poachers typically dart the rhino before hacking off its horn and nose with a chainsaw. In cases where the rhino being targeted is a mother, the calf is often killed as well.

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WWF noted that South Africa's "grim milestone" follows the announcement last week that rhinos are now extinct in Vietnam. The carcass of Vietnam's last Javan rhino was found with its horn sawed off.

The increase in rhino poaching has been attributed to the demand for rhino horns in Vietnam and other Asian countries.

“The unfounded rumor that rhino horn can cure cancer most likely sealed the fate of the last Javan rhino in Vietnam,” Dr. A. Christy Williams, WWF’s Asian rhino expert, said in a WWF statement. “This same problem is now threatening other rhino populations across Africa and South Asia.”

Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC's rhino expert, called on Vietnam's government "to turn aggressively on its internal rhino horn market."

In September, a delegation of Vietnamese officials visited South Africa to discuss cooperation on the poaching issue. 

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