Rhinos are facing the danger of a population decline after a record number of the animals were killed last year in South Africa, home to the largest rhino population.
The belief that rhino horns can cure or prevent cancer has lead to the street value of the horns to increase to $65,000 a kilogram (2.2 pounds), which makes them more valuable than gold or platinum, Reuters reported. According to sources from Kruger National Park in South Africa, 443 rhinos were killed through illegal means at the park in 2011 – while there were 333 rhinos killed in 2010.
There are around 20,000 rhinos living in South Africa, and a decade ago the poaching problem was much better controlled – only about 15 rhinos were being killed each year. However, since 2007, the illegal killings have greatly increased, supposedly due to countries such as Vietnam and Thailand where people are paying big money to use the horns as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine.
Although no scientific evidence backs the assertion, rhino horns are said to have the power to treat a number of sicknesses, including fever, gout and rheumatism. In recent years, it was reported that the horns are even being used to cure cancer.
It is very possible that the rising poaching trend might cause the already small rhino population to decline, said Richard Emslie, an expert from the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
South Africa has tried to counter the problem of rhino poaching by sending in soldiers and surveillance aircraft in Kruger National Park, which is an area as large as Israel. The country’s forces have been battling against international crime syndicates, who have used high-tech weaponry, helicopters and night-vision goggles to hunt the rhinos, investigators revealed.
It is said that many of the poachers were trained by the Mozambique army and have amassed a fortune from selling the horns on the black market.