Poachers have killed more rhinos this year than ever before

rhinos photo
CC BY 2.0 gareth1953

In 2012, poachers were responsible for the deaths of 668 endangered African rhinos, driven in large part by the demand for their 'medicinal' horns in the black markets of Asia -- up from just 17 killed in 2007. While many hoped that last year's record high would ebb in light of public awareness, it hasn't.

So far this year, 688 rhinos have been butchered by poachers -- an all time high. And if current rates continue through the end of the year, that number could reach well over 900.

Although rhino horns are primarily composed of keratin, like human fingernails, a misconception among mystics touts powdered horn as an aphrodisiac -- launching prices for the ill-gained material to upwards of $100,000 per kilogram.

In Mozambique, poachers have already driven the species to extinction. In South Africa, just 249 of the 'critically endangered' species remain. Some conservationists estimate that all the rhinos in Africa could be wiped out by 2015

Efforts to curb the slaughter have been varied, such as GPS tagging, drone monitoring, and increased penalties for poachers. But while they have no doubt saved some rhinos from that sad fate, clearly a method to slow today's momentum towards extinction has yet to be found.

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