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SA says rhino poaching down 23% last year

Poaching is fuelled by the demand for rhino horn in Asia, where it is coveted as traditional medicine or an aphrodisiac, and can fetch up to $60,000 per kilogramme.

FILE: A bull rhino. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa recorded a 23% drop in the number of rhinos killed by poachers last year, official figures showed Monday.

In 2019, 594 rhino were slaughtered for their horns, down from 769 killed in 2018.

Poaching is fuelled by the demand for rhino horn in Asia, where it is coveted as traditional medicine or an aphrodisiac, and can fetch up to $60,000 per kilogramme.

South Africa, home to 80% of the world's remaining rhinos, has seen a steady decline in poaching numbers since 2014.

The numbers of killings climbed steeply in the last decade from just 13 in 2007 to a peak of 1,215 in 2014, according to the Traffic wildlife trade monitoring group.

"A decline in poaching for five consecutive years is a reflection of the diligent work of the men and women who put their lives on the line daily to combat rhino poaching," said Environment Minister Barbara Creecy.

Most of the animals are killed in or near the Kruger National Park, which attracts visitors from all over the world.

Rhino horn is composed mainly of keratin, the same substance as in human nails.

According to Traffic, criminal networks of Chinese origin work in South Africa processing rhino horn into beads, bracelets, bangles and powder to evade detection and supply wealthy, middle-class urban consumers in Asia.