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Rhino horn price spike drives record poaching

More than 400 taken to feed crime and superstition

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Growing demand for quack cures derived from rhinoceros horn have driven horn street value to around $US65,000 per kilo, leading to a one-third increase in poaching from 2010 to 2011.

While Reuters reports the South African wild population of rhino still stands at about 20,000, with 443 rhinos poached last year it’s worth remembering that 2011 was also the year in which the world lost its last western black rhino.

Ten years back, South Africa was only losing 15 animals annually, but activity began rising in 2007, Reuters said.

The World Wildlife Fund cites research by TRAFFIC (which monitors the wildlife trade) suggesting that up to 60 percent of traditional “medicine” practitioners stock rhino horn, feeding the delusional cycle that makes the product so attractive to organized crime.

The quackery driving the poaching holds out the hope that users of rhino horn might be cured of everything from impotence to cancer.

Ironically, the news of last year’s poaching spike comes as South African wildlife parks launch an auction for legal hunting rights, a move they defend as being sustainable on wildlife management grounds. ®

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