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South Africa's rhino poaching crisis set a depressing new record in 2014

1,215 rhinos were killed last year, up 21 percent from 2013


Lindsay Abrams
January 22, 2015 8:36PM (UTC)

Despite creative efforts ranging from drones to heavy jail sentences to what basically amounts to witness protection for rhinos, 2014 was a record year for rhino poaching in South Africa, revealed figures released Thursday.

According to country's Department of Environmental Affairs reports, 1,215 rhinos were illegally killed in 2014 -- a 21 percent increase from the worrisome 1,004 killed the year before.

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South Africa's home to more than 80 percent of Africa's rhinos, the majority of which can be found in Kruger National Park, a 7,5000-square-mile game preserve where nearly two-thirds of 2014's killings occurred. The country's poaching problem has become a crisis in tandem with the popularity of ivory among the growing middle class in China and Vietnam, where it's believed to have health benefits and seen as a status symbol.

“Another year of poaching like 2014 and it becomes increasingly difficult to see a positive conservation future for South African rhinos," Tom Milliken, the elephant and rhino program leader with the organization Traffic told the Guardian. "We’re facing a ‘do or die’ situation right now.”

The escalating trend toward extinction looks something like this:

WWF- South Africa

The crisis it defies easy solutions. Critics point to the need for South Africa to step up its anti-poaching efforts, and for strong leadership from the governments of the Asian countries where most of the illegally harvested horns are destined.

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“Enforcement is crucial to reducing the number of killings, so that poaching is seen as a serious crime with serious consequences," Matthew Lewis, an African Species expert with World Wildlife Fund’s Wildlife Conservation Program, said in a statement. "That means upping jail sentences and increasing political and monetary support for enforcement activities. In parallel, we need to rapidly curb consumer demand in Asia for rhino horn products -- or this problem will only get worse in line with a growing Asian middle class.”


Lindsay Abrams

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Endangered Animals Poaching Rhinos South Africa Wildlife




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