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Rhino poaching in South Africa at all-time high

The future of the rhino population in South Africa remains under a question mark given the latest data reporting that more rhinos were killed in the past 10 months than were killed in all of 2010.

In a new report, wildlife group WWF said that black-market demand for rhino horns has fed the sharp increase in rhino poaching with 341 of the animals slain for their horns this year. South Africa has the largest population of rhinos in the world.

Although there an international ban on commercial trade of rhino horns, illegal smuggling continues from Africa to Asia, according to the WWF. Traders are also taking advantage of legal loopholes in local laws which allow for the export of rhino hunting trophies. The army has been sent against the poachers but their opponents have a thoroughly modern arsenal at their disposal, complete with night vision equipment and high-powered rifles to hunt the animals.

"The value of a rhino goes well beyond its horn," says Dr. Barney Long, WWF's Asian species expert. "Rhinos have been an integral part of the natural world for tens of millions of years, and humankind is causing dramatic declines in just a few decades. We can change the outcome."

Rhino populations around the world are under increasing pressure, according to the WWF. Last week it was reported that Vietnam's last Javan rhino went extinct.

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