Indian rhino with its horn sawed off, 2007. A cut-off horn may help keep poachers away, but doesn't guarantee it. Photo: Rhett A. Butler / mongabay.com

11 January 2013 (mongabay.com) – 668 rhinos were killed in South Africa during 2012 according to new figures released by the South African government. The total, which represents a 49 percent rise over the 448 killed in 2011, reveals the heavy toll the black market trade in rhino horn is taking on one of Africa's best known and most endangered animals.

The figures show that 425 rhino deaths occurred in Kruger National Park, South Africa’s top safari destination. South Africa is home to about three-quarters of the world's 28,000 surviving rhinos.

The trade in rhino horn is driven by demand in China and Vietnam, where it is viewed as a status symbol and believed to have medicinal properties. The industry is increasingly well-organized and well-finance according TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

Elephant and tiger populations are also suffering from poaching to supply demand in China and Vietnam. Last year, the Wildlife Conservation Society estimated some 30,000 elephants were killed annually for their ivory.

Rhino poaching hits new record in 2012

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