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Rhino killings reach record levels in South Africa


Nine-month-old rhinoceros called Vuma (C) rests with two others rhinoceros at the animal orphanage of Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve on July 21, 2010 in South Africa. The animal orphanage recently welcomed Vuma, who was orphaned after poachers hacked off his mother's horn and left her dead.


Stephane De Sakutin

Some rich people in China, Vietnam and Thailand believe that rhino horns have special powers. But the actual rhinos, not so much. Rhino poachers have killed a record amount of rhinos in South Africa this year to feed the growing black market abroad for rhino horns. This year isn't over yet, but already more South African rhinos have been killed in 2012 than in 2011, Reuters reported

As GlobalPost has reported, rhinos are already extinct, and rhino killings are on a dramatic rise.

The latest rhino poaching statistics show that 455 rhinos have been illegally killed in 2012, South Africa's environment ministry announced. South Africa is home to 20,000 rhinos, which is 90 percent of Africa's rhino population,

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In 2011, a total of 448 rhinos were poached, Agence France-Presse reported. That figure marks an increase from 333 in 2010 and just 13 in 2007.

As more affluent populations abroad have become more interested in rhino horns, their price has soared. Consumers falsely believe that rhino horns cure diseases such as cancer, and the high price on rhino horns is what is motivating poachers,  BBC News reported.

But rhino horns aren't just seen as an alternative medicine — they're also a status symbol. As GlobalPost reported in August, young people in Vietnam like to grind the rhino horns into a powder and then mix it with water or wine, to drink at parties.

The belief is that drinking a tonic made from rhino horn will detoxify the body after a night of heavy drinking.