Poachers killed 279 South African rhinos in 2011

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According to South African Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, 279 rhinos have been poached in the country since the beginning of 2011. That's up from only 13 in 2007.

South Africa allows the hunting of white rhinos and allocates five permits for the critically endangered black rhino per year. Legal hunts drew 49 million rands ($6.9 million) in 2009.

Still, legalized hunting has failed to counter the surge in illegal poaching. South African police arrested 155 people in connection with poaching this year, adding to the 165 detained in 2010.

In 2009, the United Nations' Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) estimated that rhino poaching globally was at a 15-year high.

Molewa told reporters that a study has been initiated to determine whether dehorning the rhinos would make them a less attractive target. Rhino horns are either shipped to east Asia, where they are used for traditional medicines, or the horns are shipped to Yemen and/or Oman to be used for dagger handles.

Rhino poaching is also an issue in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, India and Nepal.

Jonathan Reynolds
Jonathan is a freelance writer and blogger residing in upstate New York.

Photo credit:mmagallan

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