By Tony Carnie
South Africa is heading for a new world record – and it’s nothing to be proud of. Rhino experts warned on Monday that if the current rate of poaching continued until December, poachers were likely to set a new world record of almost 1 000 rhino killings in South Africa in a single year.
The expectation is based on the fact that at least 446 rhino have been killed in the first six months of the year.
This estimate of between 900 to 1 000 killings (equivalent to about 10 percent of the country’s remaining rhino population in the space of just 12 months) would eclipse all previous statistics since the white rhino was driven to the brink of extinction more than a century ago.
From a tiny nucleus of fewer than 50 southern white rhinos in 1903, which survived only in Umfolozi Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, the combined South African population of white and black rhino had multiplied to a healthy level of nearly 20 000 in 2010.
An analysis of rhino poaching statistics over the past 13 years shows that on average, fewer than 20 rhino were poached every year in the eight-year period after 2000.
Then it spiked suddenly five years ago, with 80 killings during 2008 and has soared rapidly since then, peaking at 668 rhinos last year.
Pietermaritzburg-based Richard Emslie, a rhino specialist, said he would not be surprised to see the final death count for this year climbing to 900 or 1 000. More....