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South Africa: Rhino killings on the rise after lockdown curbs ease

The Kruger National Park in South Africa is where most of the country's rhino are being slaughtered. Authorities are battling to protect the species from poaching gangs.

A southern white rhino pictured in South Africa

Criminal syndicates are targeting South Africa's rhino population for their horns which are then trafficked to Asia

As South Africa marked World Ranger Day on Saturday, the country's environmental authorities announced a setback in efforts to conserve the country's rhinos.

"From January to the end of June 2021, 249 rhino have been poached for their horn in South Africa," said Barbara Creecy, the minister of environment, forestry and fisheries in a statement.

This figure is higher than the amount poached during the same period in 2020.

The country had been under a hard lockdown because of COVID-19 during much of that period. As lockdown restrictions have eased, authorities have seen an uptick in poaching activity.

South Africa's poaching problem

South Africa is battling to counter poaching syndicates who operate in the country's vast national parks. A large proportion of the slaughter took place in the Kruger National Park, where 132 rhinos were killed.

Watch video 12:36

South Africa: "Black Mambas" protect rhinos

South African National Parks (SANParks) rangers are fighting what is often described as a low-level war against armed gangs of poachers operating in vast areas.

Some successes reported

According to the South Africa's environmental ministry, there have been some successes in the fight against poaching involving police, army and other specialized units.

Forty alleged poachers were arrested so far this year in the Kruger National Park alone.

Along with a total of 125 arrests, officials also reported that there have been numerous confiscations of rhino horn.

There has also been growing partnership with Southeast Asian countries, where much of the rhino horn is trafficked by criminal syndicates. It ends up being used in traditional medicines among other things.

Watch video 04:41

Rhino 911: South Africa takes poaching by the horn

The battle to save the northern white rhino

As South Africa continues to try and save its threatened southern white rhinos and its critically endangered black rhino, scientists are desperately trying to save the northern white rhino from complete extinction.

A team of international scientists say they have managed to successfully create three additional embryos from the species.

The BioRescue Consortium, which is being led by Thomas Hildebrandt from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany, said they now have 12 viable embryos.

Watch video 02:38

Saving Kenya's white rhinos with embryos

The eggs were harvested from one of the remaining two northern white rhinos in Kenya.

While the species is considered functionally extinct, the plan is to harvest embryos every three to four months.

Those embryos will have southern white rhino surrogates who will produce northern white rhino offspring.

kb/rs (AFP, dpa)

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