Poachers have killed 100 rhinoceros in South Africa in less than two months, a surge in killings that took the tally for the year to 381, authorities said Wednesday.
More than half of the animals were killed in the world-famous Kruger National Park with the rate of the slaughter likely to mean that the year’s final tally will pass last year’s carnage of 448 animals poached.
“The latest rhino poaching statistics indicate that a total of 381 rhinos have been killed since the beginning of this year,” the department of environmental affairs said.
With roughly 20,000 rhinos, South Africa is home to up to 80 percent of the world population.
But the country has seen a devastating increase in poaching in recent years as black market demand for rhino horn has grown with numbers leaping from just 13 in 2007 to 333 in 2010.
Heightened security measures have failed to stop the criminal syndicates that officials say are responsible for the killing.
The animals’ distinctive horns are hacked off to be smuggled to the lucrative Asian black market, where the fingernail-like substance is falsely believed to have powerful healing properties.
On the black market, the horns are worth their weight in gold.
“You can put all the resources at home, but if you don’t address the demand outside South Africa, you will not win the battle,” the department’s spokesman Albi Modise told AFP.
Soldiers and specialist investigators have been deployed to national parks to battle the poachers.
Despite the rise in the numbers of killings since July, the number of arrests has slightly gone up to 199 from 176 suspects held two months ago.