A massive surge in rhino hunting in South Africa is threatening the survival of the species, as the endangered animals are now being killed for their horns at a rate of almost two a day.
According to a report by the World Wildlife Fund and TRAFFIC, South Africa has witnessed a rapid escalation in poaching over the past few years. Their figures show the amount of rhinos being hunted has increased dramatically over the past few years:
- In 2007,13 animals were poached
- In 2009, 122 were killed
- In 2010, this figure jumped to 333
- In 2011, a record 448 animals were killed
By the end of this year the group estimates that more than 500 rhinos will be killed, so far the total stands at 281.
The rise is in part due to a surge in demand for rhino horns from Asian countries such as Vietnam, China, Thailand and Malaysia.
Rhino horn reaches a high price across markets in Asia as they are believed to contain a number of potent health benefits that range from curing cancer to helping hangovers.
Rhinos from are being airlifted from the wild into an new emergency rhino sanctuary in Limpopo. The majority of the rhinos are babies who have been orphaned, as their parents have fallen victim to this illicit and growing trade.
Arrie van Deventer, who runs the centre, says the species will be extinct within a generation:
Tom Milliken from TRAFFIC says the only way to ensure any kind of the future for the rhinoceros is for South Africa, home to an estimated 90% of the world's surviving population, to work with other countries to curb demand:
The South African government have said they have "scaled up" their response to rhino crime, but they cannot stop the poaching and smuggling alone.
Mavuso Msimang, rhino issue manager for the South African Department of Environmental Affairs said: