By Frank Langfitt
Africa is facing a growing epidemic: the slaughter of rhinos.
So far this year, South Africa has lost more than 290 rhinos — an average of at least two a day. That puts the country on track to set yet another record after .
Behind the rise in killings are international criminal syndicates and global economic change. Poachers have gone high-tech, using helicopters, silencers and night vision goggles to meet the growing demand for rhino horn in East Asia, especially Vietnam.
Some newly rich Vietnamese believe rhino horn — used in traditional Chinese medicine — can now treat all kinds of illnesses. Last year in Vietnam, rhino horn sold for up to $1,400 an ounce, which is about the price of gold.
The power of East Asian demand was on stark display last year after South African authorities confiscated a videotape hunters made of an illegal rhino kill.
In the video, a hunter fires on a rhino as it shades itself beneath a tree in a game reserve. The rhino tries to escape, emitting a high-pitched cry, before eventually being brought down by a volley of bullets.
In the next scene — yes, the poachers kept taping — South African hunters and Southeast Asian wildlife traffickers count stacks of money to pay for the horn. Steve Galster, executive director of the anti-trafficking in Bangkok, obtained a copy of the tape and explains: "They will be buying this horn for tens of thousands of dollars in South Africa and selling some sets of horns over in Southeast Asia for up to $1 million." More....