The number of rhinos poached in South Africa rose to 210 since the beginning of this year despite mounting efforts to stop the scourge, the government said on Tuesday.
A South African rhino. [WWF]
The Kruger National Park continued to bear the brunt, losing a "disturbing" total of 127 rhinos since January 2012, the Department of Environmental Affairs said in the latest update on rhino poaching statistics.
Encouragingly, the number of arrests continues to rise, with the arrests for 2012 now totaling 128. Of them, 67 arrests have been made in the Kruger National Park, the department said.
"The government views the poaching of this national treasure in a very serious light and continues to prioritize our fight against this crime through coordinated, joint efforts," the department said.
The South African government has appealed to the public to assist in fighting rhino poaching as the number of illegally killed rhinos keeps rising. A hotline has been set up for the public to report incidents of rhino poaching or any tip-offs that could lead to arrests and prevention of illegal killings.
Growing demand for rhino horns in Asia, particularly in Vietnam, has been blamed for the recent upsurge in rhino poaching in South Africa. The rhino horn is seen in Vietnam as a luxury item, used as a post-partying cleanser and a purported cancer cure. But there is no scientific proof for this.
Last year, 232 suspected poachers were arrested in South Africa, including 26 who died in clashes with the authorities. In 2010, 165 arrests were made. But the intensified campaign against rhino poaching has apparently failed to curb the surge in rhino poaching. Last year, a record 448 rhinos were killed in South Africa, including 19 black rhinos, a critically endangered species of which fewer than 5,000 remain in the wild. That is 34 percent more than in 2010, when 333 rhinos were killed, and nearly four times the 122 lost in 2009.