Record number of rhinos poached in South Africa

A black rhino. (Mike Strobel/QMI Agency)

A black rhino. (Mike Strobel/QMI Agency)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:10 PM ET

A record number of rhinoceroses have been poached in South Africa this year.

The Department of Environmental Affairs reported Tuesday that 455 of the animals have been illegally killed so far in 2012. That's compared to a total of 448 in 2011, and 333 in 2010.

South Africa is home to more than 80% of the approximately 25,000 rhinos in Africa, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

The spike in poaching is likely due to ever-growing demand for powdered rhino horn, used in traditional medicine in some Asian countries. It is thought to alleviate a wide range of conditions, including fever and convulsions.

Demand has recently surged in Vietnam, where it is touted as a cure for both hangovers and terminal illnesses like cancer. That country's government issued a warning on Monday about a fraud scheme making the e-mail rounds that asks people to invest in a "legal rhino farm project" in South Africa, according to Thanh Nien News.

Trade in rhino horn has been illegal since 1977, under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

The South African government said it has made 207 arrests so far this year in connection with rhino poaching.


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