In the late 19th century, Africa's white rhino had been hunted almost to extinction with only around 100 individuals thought to be left in the wild. Extensive conservation efforts to save the rhinos has led to a rise in populations of over 20,000 today. The white rhino is considered endangered and the black rhino, critically endangered.|
However, decades of hard work could be very quickly undone as there has recently been a large rise in the number of rhinos illegally poached across the continent. South Africa, which is home to the largest population of rhinos (both white and black) in the world, has been targeted most heavily of all.
Losing more than 300 rhinos to poachers in 2010 (46 of which were from the Kruger National Park which has the highest populations in the country), serious concerns over the future of the rhino in South Africa has led to better law enforcement efforts in order to try and catch the people who are behind it.
Rhino horns have been used medicinally in Asia for centuries, but it is thought that recent claims from this market that rhino horns possess cancer curing properties, have led to the rise in demand for it since 2008. Even though there is no medical evidence to back this up, it is thought that most of the illegally poached horns are introduced to the market in Vietnam.
One of the most worrying things to organisations such as TRAFFIC and WWF who are trying to put a stop to it, is that the poaching seems to be conducted by very capable criminal organisations who are said to use high-tech equipment, including helicopters and night-vision goggles, in order to avoid being caught.
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