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African Rhino Population may Start Shrinking in Less than Two Years' Time, Experts Warn

Feb 27, 2013 08:54 AM EST

The population of African rhinos will start shrinking in less than two years' time, if poaching rates continue to increase, predict International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) experts.

Nearly 2,400 rhinos have been poached across Africa since 2006. There is a huge demand for rhino horns in Asian countries, which has paved the way for an illegal trading business to thrive in countries like China and Vietnam. Rhino horns command high prices, which has triggered poaching of these endangered species. Rhino poaching increased by 43 percent between the years 2011 and 2012. This has caused a loss of almost 3 percent of the rhino population in 2012. 

Experts warn if the poaching continues to increase at this rate, the population of rhinos would start to shrink within two years' time. "Well-organized and well-funded crime syndicates are continuing to feed the growing black market with rhino horn," Mike Knight, Chairman of the IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group, said in a news release.

"Over the past few years, consumer use of rhino horn has shifted from traditional Asian medicine practices to new uses, such as to convey status. High levels of consumption - especially the escalating demand in Vietnam - threaten to soon reverse the considerable conservation gains achieved over the last two decades," he explained.

There are 5,055 Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and 20,405 White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) in Africa. In 2012, at least 745 rhinos were poached throughout Africa, with a record number of 688 rhinos killed in South Africa alone.

Since the beginning of 2013, one rhino is being poached every 11 hours - a rate that is higher than the average poaching rate for 2012.

IUCN has called upon the international community and in particular, the main rhino markets - Vietnam, China and Mozambique - to address the issue immediately by enforcing stringent regional and international trade laws.

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