It's been just a little over two weeks since the new year began, but it's already shaping up to be another deadly year for South Africa's imperiled rhinos. In just the last half-month alone, poachers have claimed the lives of at least eleven rhinos for the purpose of removing their horns -- with eight found dead in just one day -- putting 2012 on track to be one of the worst years for rhinos ever.
Ground zero for rhino poaching in South Africa has been Kruger national park, a sprawling 7,523 square mile big game reserve along the country's border with Mozambique. In 2011, over half of the 448 rhinos killed in South Africa resided within Kruger, despite the presence of some 500 park rangers.Faced with the the recent poaching spike, South African authorities plan to add 150 more rangers to patrol Kruger and install a 95-mile electric barrier along the area most trafficked by the illegal hunters, reports the BBC.
South Africa has been badly hit by poaching because it has the largest population of rhinos in the world, with about 20,000 animals - 70-80% of the global figure.
The number of rhinos slaughtered in 2010 was 333.
Growing Asian demand for rhino horn, believed to be a remedy for various illness including cancer, is thought to be behind the recent spike in rhino killings, even though there is no scientific evidence for its reputed medicinal properties.
As South African authorities have begun thinking of new ways to combat poaching, concerned citizen from around the world are doing their part as well, through various NGOs and conservation organizations, like Save the Rhinos International.
Recently, South African citizen Mark Warren posted a video to YouTube outlining the statistics on rhino hunting. Perhaps serving as an indication that the public was as yet unaware of the scale of the rhino problem, the video has already gone viral, having been viewed over 250 thousand times.