Rhino horn trade fuels poaching South Africa surge

More on Guardian.co.uk
South Africa is witnessing a massive surge
in rhino poaching, an activity blamed
on criminal syndicates striving to meet
an "insatiable appetite" for rhinoceros horn
in east Asia.

Eighty-four rhinos have been killed by poachers i
n the country so far this year, a jump from t
he 13 deaths in 2007.

Kruger Park, a worldwide tourist attraction,
has been hardest hit, suffering
the loss of 33 rhinos since January.

Nineteen have been killed
in KwaZulu-Natal province, and some privately
owned reserves have lost seven animals.

Conservationists say it is the biggest spike
in poaching for 15 years and blame
the smuggling trade connected to countries,
such as China and Vietnam, where rhino horn
can fetch thousands of pounds for
its perceived medicinal value.

They say that Asian countries' strengthening
trade links with Africa have shortened
the illegal supply chain.

They also say more sophisticated poaching
methods are being used, with organised
criminal gangs flying in to game reserves
by helicopter to kill rhinos, hack off their horns
and make a quick getaway.

South Africa has about 1,490 black rhinos,
more than a third of the world population
of this critically endangered species.

There are about 16,275 southern white rhinos,
93% of the global total.

Yolan Friedmann, chief executive of
the Endangered Wildlife Trust, said
the number of rhinos lost to poaching
had altered from an average of
10 a year to 100.
"There has been a rampant increase
in South Africa," she said.

"Poaching figures for this year have already
surpassed the whole of last year.
It's probably the worst it's been for 15 years.

There's a lot more money going into
poaching and it's becoming more hi-tech.

It's no longer just a man with a bow and
arrow wading through the bush.

These guys are using helicopters and AK-47 rifles.

"She warned that initiatives used previously
could not meet the new threat.

"Despite the once successful Save
the Rhino project, rhinos are under siege.

South Africa is facing a crisis ...
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