The number of South African rhinos poached for their horn, which is worth more than gold, rose to a record 1,004 last year, according to the country’s Department of Environmental Affairs.
The attacks jumped by half from 668 in 2012, the ministry said in an e-mailed statement today. Thirty-seven rhinos have been poached this year so far, it said.
Most of the animals were killed in the eastern Kruger National Park, where poachers slip across the 350-kilometer (217-mile) border with Mozambique. The horn is shipped to Vietnam and China, where it costs more than gold by weight and buyers believe it can heal ailments and improve one’s libido.
Poaching-related arrests climbed 28 percent to 343 last year as South Africa militarized its force of park rangers. White and black rhinos were brought back from the brink of extinction in South Africa in the 1960s to a population of close to 20,000, about 90 percent of the global total.
The global rhino population will probably start decreasing by 2016 if the current trend continues, former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, who is trying to mobilize the anti-poaching campaign on that side of the border, said on Nov. 4. Thirty-six Mozambicans, hired to shoot the rhinos, were killed in clashes with armed game wardens in Kruger, he said.
Rhino horn can sell for as much as $95,000 per kilogram for consumers in China and Vietnam.