1,020 Rhinos Poached in South Africa Since January

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A record 1,152 rhinos in South Africa could become victims of the illegal wildlife trade by the end of the year, according to the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF).

The African conservation group based its projections on today’s announcement by South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs that 1,020 of the country’s rhinos have been killed for their horns since the beginning of the year, surpassing the 1,004 rhinos killed in South Africa in all of 2013. AWF recently launched a US$10 million Emergency Response Fund to help stop the killing, stop the trafficking and stop the demand for illegal wildlife products such as rhino horn. 

“Many governments recognize the seriousness of the situation and are doing a number of good things to try and staunch the blood flow, but this is not keeping pace with poachers and the increasing demand for rhino horn,” says African Wildlife Foundation Senior Director of Conservation Science Philip Muruthi. “Conservation groups like ours can help extend the arm of wildlife law enforcement into many areas and raise awareness about the crisis abroad in the countries where demand for rhino horn persists.”

AWF’s emergency initiative has funded the purchase of a helicopter to be used for anti-poaching patrols in South Africa’s Sabi Sands Reserve, which borders Kruger National Park, where the majority of South Africa’s rhinos have been poached. It is also enhancing security around critical populations of black and white rhino in other areas, including South Africa’s Great Fish River Nature Reserve and the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary in Kenya’s Tsavo West National Park.

To stop the trafficking of rhino horn, ivory and other illegal wildlife products, AWF is working with a canine specialist group to install trained sniffer dogs and their handlers at ports and airports in key countries, such as Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Asia, AWF has partnered with WildAid and a number of Chinese and Vietnamese celebrities, including former NBA star Yao Ming and Vietnamese-American actor Johnny Nguyen, to raise awareness about rhino poaching among Chinese and Vietnamese consumers. Rhino horn is believed in some countries to cure a number of ailments, from cancer to headaches.

South Africa is home to 83 percent of Africa’s rhinos. Recently the South African National Parks (SANParks) authority announced plans to relocate hundreds of rhinos from poaching hotspots inside the Kruger National Park to other, less vulnerable parks and reserves, both inside and outside of the country.