249 rhinos poached in South Africa

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The number of rhinos poached for their horn in South Africa has increased to 249 since the beginning of the year, according to the latest statistics released on Thursday.

The Kruger National Park remains the hardest hit, with the number of rhinos poached since last week increasing from 167 to 180, the Department of Environmental Affairs said.

A total of 21 rhinos have been slaughtered in North West Province, 18 in KwaZulu-Natal, 17 in Limpopo and 13 in Mpumalanga.

While rhino poaching continues unabated, the fight against the scourge is also gaining momentum.

The number of alleged poachers arrested countrywide has increased to 78, with two alleged couriers arrested in KwaZulu- Natal in the past week. This brought to five the number of alleged middlemen arrested so far the year.

A total of 73 people are facing poaching related charges and some additional charges of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. Of these, 36 were arrested in the Kruger National Park, 17 in Limpopo, 13 in KwaZulu-Natal, eight in North West and one in Mpumalanga.

As intensified efforts failed to stem rhino poaching, a debate is underway on whether the government should declare unchecked rhino poaching "a national disaster."

The opposition Democratic Alliance insists that declaring rhino poaching "a national disaster" would enable access to disaster management funds to finance anti-poaching initiatives.

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