By Jenna Iacurci
As the poaching crisis continues, more than 730 rhinos have been killed in South Africa so far this year, fast approaching a deadly record.
And despite efforts to put an end to this illegal hunting, wildlife officials fear that the iconic species could go extinct by the end of the decade.
Independent Online reports that at least 736 rhinos have been killed so far this year in South Africa, putting 2014 on track to being the worst poaching year on record. If the slaughter continues as this rate, 1,096 rhinos will be lost by year's end, surpassing last year's record death toll of 1,004 rhinos.
"By 2019 we will only see or hear rhinos on Google or in the library. Is this what we want as heritage for our children?" said Cope MP Deidre Carter during a parliamentary debate on rhino poaching Tuesday.
The most recent rhino death was reported early Monday outside a farm camp near Johannesburg. Such illegal activity occurs about three times a day, and normally goes undetected, but this incident was caught on camera.
"The guys jumped over the fence into the camp and the rhino charged the guy, he then fired the second shot and the rhino fell," farmer Richard Brooker told Eyewitness News. "Another guy came in and they hacked the horn off."
Africa's poaching crisis is driven by the demand for rhino horn, even though international trade in rhino horn has been banned under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) since 1977.
Rhino horn dagger handles are worn as status symbols, and their value rose 20-fold in the 1970s, fueling the rhino horn trade, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
After first being grinded up into a powder, rhino horn is also used in traditional Asian medicine to treat a variety of ailments.
Black rhinos, in particular, have suffered greatly as a result. Even though their numbers have doubled over the past two decades to around 21,000 animals, their total numbers are still a fraction of the estimated 100,000 that existed in the early part of the 20th century.
Habitat loss via forest development and rising human populations, especially in southeast Asia and India, also threaten this endangered species.
Last week, South African Parliament members met to discuss strengthening anti-poaching measures, namely by making it easier for rangers to pursue poachers across borders.