By Peter Cox
The number of South African rhinos killed by poachers rose nearly 50 percent this year to almost 1,000.
As of December 19, poachers had killed 946 rhinos in South Africa this year. The South African department of environmental affairs says 668 were killed in 2012. A decade ago, in 2003, only 22 rhinos were poached.
Richard Emslie, a scientific officer in South Africa with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said, "It's a real crisis… for poaching to continue to escalate as it has done year on year is not sustainable."
He said the numbers don't bode well for the animals, which are being killed for their horns.
"At the rate poaching has been escalating continentally since 2008, we will reach the tipping point where deaths start to exceed births as soon as 2014 up to 2016, depending on the underlying growth rate of rhinos," said Emslie.
South Africa is home to 83 percent of the continent's rhinos, 73 percent of the world's population.
Although South Africa arrested 330 poachers in 2013, environmental experts say that rising demand makes the fight against poaching harder. A single rhino horn can sell for thousands of dollars.
China and Southeast Asia are the biggest markets for rhino horn, which many people consider to be an aphrodisiac.
Changing that perception has become a major focus for anti-poaching organizations and governments. There have been ad campaigns in countries such as Vietnam to educate people on the effect of poaching, and to explain that the horns are made up largely of the same material as human finger- and toe-nails.
Some organizations also are trying to find other jobs for South Africans who might be recruited to poach. More....