South Africa has surpassed last year’s grisly record for slaughtered rhinos—1,004—more than a month before the year ends. In an announcement on November 20th, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs said that 1,020 rhinos had been killed to date. Rhinos are butchered for their horns, which are consumed as curatives in countries like Vietnam and China despite any evidence that rhino horn has medicinal properties.
In its announcement, the Department of Environmental Affairs stressed the government’s new initiatives to combat the poaching scourge.
“South Africa’s multi-disciplinary response further includes the creation of an intensive protection zone within the Kruger National Park, the introduction and implementation of new technology, pro-active intelligence, improving national, regional and international collaboration, and translocating rhino to safe areas within South Africa, and in rhino range states,” the department said in a statement.
But none of these programs blunted the killing spree which has been rising rapidly since 2007 when just seven rhinos were killed in the country. Today, it takes less than three days on average for seven rhinos to meet their end in the country.
While rhino poaching is a problem across many countries in Africa and Asia, its epicenter remains in South Africa. This is, at least partly, because the country is home to the largest population of rhinos in the world. As of 2010, South Africa was home to over 18,000 white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) and nearly 2,000 black rhinos (Diceros bicornis). In the case of white rhinos, South Africa has over 90 percent of the global population. But the country has also been criticized by some for not doing enough to protect its rhinos and supporting the creation of a legal trade in rhino horns.