2011 continues to be a tough year for rhino poachers in South Africa

Back in January we posted a story about five rhino poachers being killed in two separate gun fights in South Africa. A month later, things haven’t exactly improved for the illegal hunters, with four more being killed in the subsequent weeks since the original story. It seems that 2011 is off to a rough start, as barely six weeks in, and twice as many poachers have been killed than in all of 2010.

The higher number of fatalities isn’t just because the anti-poaching squads have stepped up their patrols and improved their training techniques however. According to this story from the AP, the number of poachers has greatly increased in 2011 as well. Demand for rhino horns continues to rise in parts of Asia, where they are used as key ingredients in traditional medicines, and as a result there is a lot of money to be made on the illegal black market.

In 2010, 333 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone, nearly tripling the number from the previous year. On a recent trip to the country, I was told that 2011 was off to an ominous start as well, with a high number of illegal kills already taking place this year. The general outlook for the future wasn’t a positive one either. Rhinos are already on the endangered species lists, and they’re being slaughtered at an alarming rate. It seems that as long as their is demand for the prized rhino horns, there will be plenty of people willing to take the risk to harvest them.

If the current trend holds for the rest of the year, it seems it is going to be a bloody one for the rhinos in South Africa, as well as the men that hunt them.