Rhino poaching in South Africa reaches highest ever levels in 2010
A total of 333 rhinos were illegally killed in South Africa in 2010, including ten critically endangered black rhinos, according to national park officials. The yearly total is the highest ever experienced in South Africa and nearly triple 2009 when 122 rhinos were killed in the country. An additional five rhinos have been lost to poaching since the new year.
Kruger National Park, the world famous safari destination, was hardest hit losing 146 rhinos to poaching in 2010, authorities said. The park is home to the largest populations of both white and black rhinos in the country. Rhinos constitute one of the much-revered "Big 5" of African wildlife tourism, including elephants, lions, leopards and Cape buffalo.
Rhino poaching across Africa has risen sharply in the past few years, threatening to reverse hard-won population increases achieved by conservation authorities during the 20th century. The first alarming yearly spike occurred in 2008 when 83 rhinos were lost. South Africa has responded by intensifying its law enforcement efforts, and made approximately 162 poaching arrests last year.
"Many more successful convictions, backed up by appropriately daunting penalties will significantly demonstrate the South African government's commitment to preventing the clouding of the country's excellent rhino conservation track record that it has built up over the past several decades," said Dr. Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF South Africa.
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