Surveillance, penalties needed to halt rhino poaching

Wed Apr 4, 2012 6:22am GMT

By Yara Bayoumy

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Better surveillance and stiffer penalties must be imposed to combat rhino poaching in Africa, which if left unchecked could see the species become extinct in the wild by 2025, regional conservation officials said on Tuesday.

The world's rhino population has declined 90 percent since 1970, conservationists estimate. On the African continent, there are some 20,150 white rhinos that are near threatened and 4,840 black rhinos that are critically endangered.

"We've certainly reached a tipping point in rhino populations. There is no way that our national populations can sustain the level of poaching," Pelham Jones, chairman of the South Africa Private Rhino Owners Association, told Reuters on the sidelines of a conservation summit in Nairobi.

"What I've seen in the past is that many politicians ... have solidly got their heads in the sand ... The attitude of saying that there is no crisis is a statement of denial. There is a crisis," Jones said.

Last year, 448 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone, a 33 percent increase compared to the year before, driven by high demand from Asian countries where the rhino horn is purported to cure cancer. Scientists have widely dismissed the assertion.

South Africa is home to more than 90 percent of Africa's rhino population.

The price of rhinoceros horn has soared to $50,000 per kg, higher than the price of gold, the summit, hosted by the African Wildlife Foundation, said.


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