By Les Neuhaus
Only hundreds of rhinoceroses remain after years of illegal hunting to satisfy Asia’s demand for rhino horns.
Rhinoceros poaching in Zimbabwe dropped year on year in 2013, but only about 750 rhinos remain, Agence France-Presse reported, noting that thousands of rhinos inhabited the southern African nation in 1980.
Geoffreys Matipano of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority told AFP that poachers killed 20 rhinos in the country in 2013, marking a 66-percent decline from 2012.
Matipano said a total of 60 were killed in 2013, down from 84 in 2008, the peak year for poaching, AFP reported.
“In the late 1980s we had close to 2,000 rhinos and then they (numbers) crashed,” he told AFP.
In Asia, rhinoceros horns are highly valued for their perceived medicinal properties, and this has resulted in the poaching activities that have dramatically slashed rhino populations in Zimbabwe.
“A couple of more years like this, I hate to say it, but I think the rhinos will be done,” Steven Dean, operations manager for the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, told TIME in February.
More than 1,000 rhinoceroses were illegally killed in South Africa in 2013, according to a report by The Guardian in January. Poaching was up 50 percent from 2012 in South Africa, which is home to about 22,000 white and black rhinos.
“Demand is so high that a kilogram of rhino hornis now worth more than gold or cocaine,” The Guardian reported.
The Zimbabwe rhino population is made up of 450 black rhino and 300 white rhino, which live in national parks or on private game reserves.
AFP reported that Zimbabwean authorities and conservationists have adopted a bevy of measures meant to counter the problem, “including jails terms for convicted poachers.”
Dehorning the animals is another extreme tactic, AFP reported, adding that the introduction of satellite tracking could help secure rhinos.
Edson Chidziya, head of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority, said at an anti-poaching conference attended by AFP that poachers usually shoot the animals with guns, but sometimes poison them.
According to AFP, 300 elephants and other animals “died due to cyanide poisoning by poachers in Zimbabwe’s largest game park in Hwange” last year. Video.