South Africa Rhino Deaths Drop Second Year Amid Record Arrests

  • Poachers slaughtered 1,054 rhino for their horns in 2016
  • Authorities made 680 arrests of poachers and traffickers

Rhinos graze in the bush on the edge of Kruger National Park in South Africa on Oct. 1, 2016.

Photographer: Denis Farrell/AP

The number of rhinoceroses killed by poachers in South Africa last year fell 10 percent as arrests for illegal hunting of the animals more than doubled to a record.

A total of 1,054 rhinos were slaughtered for their horns in 2016, down from 1,175 a year earlier, South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs said in a statement on its website. In the Kruger National Park, a game reserve about the same size as Wales, the carcasses of 662 rhinos were found last year, down from 826 in the previous 12 months.

Rhino horn demand has climbed in nations including China and Vietnam, because of a belief that they can cure diseases such as cancer and even ease a hangover. The price of the horns is as much as $95,000 per kilogram in Asia, more valuable than gold. Rhino poaching deaths fell in 2015 following at least four consecutive annual increases.

The South African Police Service reported the arrests of a record 680 poachers and traffickers last year, up from 317 in 2015, the department said. Rhino poaching is classified as a National Priority Crime in the country and interdisciplinary enforcement efforts include the police, South African National Parks, the Department of Defense.

An estimated 8,400 to 9,300 white rhinos lived in the Kruger Park in 2015, indicating a stable population, according to a survey by SANParks. Private owners of the animals have seen an increase in numbers since the mid-1980s, from 800 white rhinos to about 5,000, representing about a quarter of the global population, according to a government study.

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