April 5 - The spread of wealth in some Asian nations is being blamed for a rise in South African rhino poaching. Paul Chapman reports.
A decade ago, the Kruger National Park in South Africa lost about 15 rhinos a year to poachers. Last year 448 were killed across the country as a whole. So far this year alone 159 have been slaughtered nationwide The government says the park has suffered the biggest losses. SOUNDBITE: EDNA MOLEWA, SOUTH AFRICAN ENVIRONMENT MINISTER, SAYING (English): "The Kruger National Park continues to bear the brunt of these losses with rhino poached in the park reaching the staggering figure of 95. As we compare this with last year's figure it has actually increased and we are very very concerned." The spread of wealth in nations like Vietnam and Thailand is being blamed for the rise in poaching. More people can afford to buy powdered rhino horn, a prized ingredient in traditional medicine despite the absence of any proven benefits. And with the value of rhino horn now at 65, 000 dollars a kilo, there's every incentive for the poachers. But investigators say patrolling the Kruger National Park, an area the size of Israel, is no easy task. SOUNDBITE: KEN MAGGS, SENIOR GENERAL MANAGER, CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION, SAYING (English): "One of the patrols, field ranger patrols, that was out located a carcass through vulture activity and then we initiate a whole investigative process, this takes place. And where we are today, a crime scene team have arrived and they have basically carried out an investigation of the crime scene trying to collect as much evidence as they possibly can." South Africa is home to both species of African rhino. It has all but a tenth of the continent's 20, 000-plus white rhino, and almost half the smaller 4, 800 black rhino population. Paul Chapman, Reuters