2011 is turning out to be a bad year for rhinos worldwide. In October, the Javan rhino was officially declared extinct in Vietnam. Now, new data from South Africa shows that this will be the worst year on record for poaching there.
So far, 341 animals have been lost to poaching in 10 months of 2011, topping the 333 killed in all of last year.
The poaching is driven by demand for rhino horn in the medicine markets of East and South East Asia. Recently, Vietnam, in particular, has emerged as a primary driver in the global demand for rhino horn.
"The value of a rhino goes well beyond its horn,” explained Dr. Barney Long, WWF’s Asian species expert. “rhinos have been an integral part of the natural world for tens of millions of years, and humankind is causing dramatic declines in just a few decades. We can change the outcome."
Poaching has been a focus for law enforcement officers in South Africa—which has the world's largest population of rhinos—and several high-profile arrests have been made. Still, officers are competing with heavily armed poaching cartels that are suspected to have backing from organized crime syndicates based in South East Asia.
Though it is suspected that South Africa's efforts will, eventually, curb poaching there, it raises fears that the poachers will shift their sights to neighboring countries that do not have the resources to defend their rhino populations.
Read more about rhinoceros poaching:
Rhino Poaching in South Africa Reaches a New Record
Rhino Poaching Increases 2000% in 3 Years
Rhino Poaching Spikes, but there is Hope