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Relentless rise in rhino slaughter

The number of rhinos killed by poachers has increased for the sixth year in a row, according to new data. While the situation has improved in some places, it's getting worse in countries such as Namibia and Zimbabwe.

A report published on Thursday

by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that at least 1,338 rhinos were killed across Africa in 2015.

Demand for rhino horn

in Southeast Asia, where it features in traditional medicine, is thought to be fueling the trade and setting back efforts to conserve and even boost the numbers of the iconic creatures.

The number killed is the highest since statistics on rhinoceroses killed by poachers began being recorded in 2008, the report said. Since then, poachers have killed at least 5,940 African rhinos.

"The extensive poaching for the illegal trade in horn continues to undermine the rhino conservation successes made in Africa over the last two decades," said Mike Knight, chair of IUCN's African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG).

But the news isn't all bad. In Kenya, rhino poaching has been on the decline thanks to increased law enforcement and expenditure. There's also been a small but observable drop in South Africa, which conserves 79 percent of the world's rhinos and where the bulk of poaching takes place.

Despite effort to actually increase rhinoceros populations, the more numerous white rhinos have remained about the same in number. But conservationists have said that despite the problems with poaching, they have seen an actual increase in the number of rarer black rhinos.

"Sadly, these improvements have been dampened by alarming increases in poaching over the past year in other vitally important range states, such as Namibia and Zimbabwe," said IUCN Director General Inger Andersen.

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