JOHANNESBURG: Poachers have slaughtered 455 rhinos in South Africa so far this year, already surpassing the record annual tally for 2011, the government said Tuesday.
"The latest rhino poaching statistics indicate that a total of 455 rhinos have been lost to illegal killings since the beginning of this year," the department of environmental affairs said in a statement.
South Africa has seen a dizzying spike in the pace of rhino slaughters fuelled by the lucrative Asian black market trade in rhino horn.
Last year, a total of 448 rhinos were poached, up from 333 in 2010 and just 13 in 2007.
More than half of the animals killed so far this year were in the world-renowned Kruger National Park which has lost 272 animals, compared with 252 last year.
The South African authorities have arrested 207 people this year, including 179 poachers, and have beefed up security measures such as sending soldiers in the Kruger reserve.
But the efforts have failed to curb the criminal syndicates driving the bloodshed.
The animals' distinctive horns are hacked off to be smuggled to the Asian black market, where the fingernail-like substance is falsely believed to have powerful healing properties.