JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, (UPI) — Poaching has claimed more rhinos this year than ever before in South Africa, home to the largest population of rhinos in the world, officials said.
The South African government said poachers have killed a record number of rhinos with 455 slaughtered so far this year, the BBC reported Tuesday.
Only 13 rhinos were killed in 2007, but poaching has been driven up by the soaring price of rhino horn used in traditional medicine in Asian countries such as China and Vietnam, officials said.
The black market price of rhino horn is now in the region of $29,000 per pound.
South Africa, with between 70 percent and 80 percent of the global population of rhinos, has become the center of the illegal trade in rhino horns and the resultant poaching.
“We’re sitting at 455 with the two worst months to go and if you consider the growth rate is 6 percent a year, we’re getting close to tipping point,” Kirsty Brebner of the Endangered Wildlife Trust said.
“That means when your deaths exceed your births, so the species starts to go into decline.”