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Rhino poaching rises by 50% in South Africa

More than 1,000 rhinos were illegally killed in South Africa last year. Credit: ITV News

More than 1,000 rhinos were illegally killed in South Africa last year, a 50 per cent increase on the previous year, according to official figures.

The South African Department of Environmental Affairs said 1,004 rhinos were poached in 2013 - compared to 668 killed for their horn in 2012.

South African officials also revealed that there was a rise in the number of rhino poachers arrested during 2013. Last year, 343 alleged poachers were arrested, up from 267 in 2012. There have been six arrests so far this year.

Conservation experts have warned that the rise in poaching, to meet demand for rhino horn in China and Vietnam in particular, brings South Africa's white rhino population closer to the "tipping point" where deaths will outnumber births and the population will go into serious decline.

Precious rhino heads stolen from Irish museum

One of the four rhino heads stolen from the storage facility
One of the four rhino heads stolen from a storage facility in Dublin Credit: National Museum of Ireland/PA Wire

Four rhinoceros heads with eight horns worth almost half a million pounds have been stolen from museum storage in Ireland.

Three masked men broke into a facility in Swords, north Dublin late last night and tied up a security man before committing the robbery.

The eight horns could have a street value of £428 million
The eight horns could have a street value of £428 million Credit: National Museum of Ireland/PA Wire

The heads had been taken off public display more than a year ago and put into storage after a spate of similar thefts from museums and private collections in Europe.

"The horns have probably been taken to supply the illegal trade in powdered horn that is used in traditional medicines in the Far East," a spokesman for the museum said.

"The total amount stolen could have a street value in the region of 500,000 euro (£428,000)."

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Criminal gangs target ivory in museums

The damaged elephant skeleton at the Paris Natural History museums
The damaged elephant skeleton at the Paris Natural History museums Credit: EBU

The attack on an elephant skeleton at the Paris Natural History Musuem is the latest in a series of thefts from people looking to cash in on the lucrative trade in ivory and rhino horn.

Rhino horn is worth £65,000 a kilo, which makes it more valuable than cocaine, heroin and gold.

In 2011 rare black rhino horn was stolen from Druzilla's Wild Life Park in Sussex.

In 2012 staff at the Powell-Cotton Museum at Quex Park in Birchington had to replace valuable rhino horns with fakes after they were hacked off the exhibits by the thieves.

Volunteers are currently helping to man 24 hour patrols of rhino enclosures at Port Lympne and Howletts Wildlife Parks after police received information that criminal gangs were hoping to poach the creatures.

Man 'tries to steal tusk' from Paris museum

The tusk on the historic skeleton was badly damaged in the attack
The tusk on the historic skeleton was badly damaged in the attack Credit: EBU

A man is being questioned by police after he allegedly hacked the tusk off an historic elephant skeleton in the Natural History Museum in Paris.

The museum said that staff were initially alerted to the theft after they heard a chainsaw being used in one of the galleries early on Saturday morning.

Staff were alerted when they heard the noise of a chainsaw in one of their galleries
Staff were alerted when they heard the noise of a chainsaw in one of their galleries Credit: EBU

Police arrested a man near the museum after he was spotted carrying the three-kilogram (seven-pound) tusk. A chainsaw was recovered from inside the gallery.

The popular skeleton was given to King Louis XIV of France in 1668 but the tusks were added at a later date.

The museum's guide book shows the completed skeleton.
The museum's guide book shows the completed skeleton. Credit: EBU

Kent animal parks call for volunteers to guard against rhino poaching

Poachers in Africa regularly shoot rhinos for their horns, which are highly valued for alternative medicine in parts of Asia. Credit: PA

Security has been stepped up at wildlife parks after police were tipped off about a plot to hunt rhinos in south-east England.

Two animal parks in Kent - Port Lympne and Howletts - have called for volunteers to help them carry out 24-hour patrols, while police have also stepped up surveillance.

Pc Michael Laidlow, wildlife crime officer for Kent Police, said: "There was anonymous information through Crimestoppers saying there was a possible attack on rhinos.

"We've spoken to all the owners of rhinos in the South East and they are taking measures to combat it."

Bob O'Connor, managing director of Howletts and Port Lympne, said: "We've upped our night-time patrols, we doubled that straight away with our keepers who live on site.

"We have to take this as a credible threat."

Rhino horn is worth £65,000 a kilo, which makes it more valuable than cocaine, heroin and gold.

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WWF: Rhino poachers are 'stepping up their game'

WWF's African species expert Matthew Lewis said he "did not want to believe" the rhino poaching statistics for 2012, which showed a record number of rhinos were killed.

Poachers are stepping up their game and we must do the same.

We need to increase protection for rangers on the front-lines and curb the demand for rhino horn in consumer countries to stop this heinous wildlife crime.

I do not want to imagine a world in which rhinos no longer exist in the wild.”

– WWF's African species expert Matthew Lewis

Click here for more from WWF.

Vietnam's deadly rhino horn trade

Rumours that powdered rhino horn can cure cancer and other diseases have fuelled a huge and growing demand for it in countries like Vietnam.

This illegal trade is threatening the very existence of one of the world's great animals.

ITV News China Correspondent Angus Walker went undercover to expose a trade that is causing the rhino to be hunted by poachers to the brink of extinction:

Click here to read more about this special ITV News investigation.

Vietnam needs to 'admit it has a poaching problem'

Vietnam has rapidly grown to be the world’s largest recipient of illegal rhino horn from South Africa, with record numbers of rhinos being poached, Vietnamese consumers employing proxy hunters from Eastern Europe and Vietnamese nationals arrested with illicit rhino horns.

The Vietnamese government urgently needs to demonstrate political will in tackling the trafficking of rhino horn, through rigorous law enforcement activities, arrests and sentencing.

We won’t be able to make any progress until Vietnam admits it’s got a problem.

– Save the Rhino

Facts and figures on rhino poaching in Africa

  • Nearly 2,400 rhinos have been poached across Africa since 2006.
  • The high level of poaching means that growth of the rhino population is at its slowest since 1995.
  • Rhino poaching increased by 43% between 2011 and 2012.
  • 3% of the rhino population was lost in 2012.
  • In 2012, at least 745 rhinos were poached throughout Africa, the highest in two decades.
  • This year a rhino is being poached every 11 hours, which is higher than the 2012 average.

Read: Vietnam's deadly demand for rhino horns.

Click here for more from savetherhino.org.

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