245 rhinos killed in South Africa this year

THE slaughter of rhinos is continuing at a record pace with 245 killed in South Africa since January, authorities say.

The country's largest game reserve, the Kruger Park, has been the hardest hit, losing 60 per cent of the national toll, the Department of Environmental Affairs said today.

With roughly 20,000 rhino, South Africa is home to about 75 per cent of the world population.

Poachers killed 448 animals last year, compared with 333 in 2010. In 2007 only 13 were killed by illegal hunters.

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 fetch almost 50,000 euros ($63,000) each, or the same price by weight as gold.

Efforts to curb the killings include the deployment of soldiers in the Kruger Park and specialist investigators.

Police have arrested 161 suspects, including 138 poachers, since the start of the year, the ministry said.


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