'Poachers killing off rhino species'

THE South African National Parks has said incidents of rhino poaching throughout the country had escalated at an alarming rate since the beginning of the year.

THE South African National Parks has said incidents of rhino poaching throughout the country had escalated at an alarming rate since the beginning of the year.

The authority said the country had lost at least 92 rhinos, with the Kruger National Park being the hardest hit with 33, followed by North West at 18 and Gauteng 12.

SanParks chief executive David Mabunda yesterday appealed to civilians to be vigilant against poaching because it had become a serious problem.

The Kruger National Park is home to between 9000 and 12000 of the about 19000-strong population of white rhinos, and between 580 and 650 of the estimated 1670 black rhinos.

"South Africa has seen an escalating assault on its rhino populations in the last three years, with the first alarming spike being experienced in 2008 with the loss of 83 rhinos," Mabunda said.

He said this was a sharp rise from the mere 13 rhinos lost in 2007.

"South Africa lost a further 122 rhinos last year. This is the highest level of poaching of rhino horns ever seen in the country," he said.

According to Mabunda rhinos were under siege from marauding poachers all over the world.

Asia and India also faced a similar trend, which was driving these species to near extinction, Mabunda said.

He said the practice was mainly executed by a syndicate of organised and hardened criminals.

But he was optimistic that the army and police units operating along the country's borders would eradicate the practice as it posed a serious threat to heritage resources.

Investigations earlier found that most of the syndicate members and arrested suspects were eyeing European and Asian markets to sell the horns for medical production.

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