Reuters has reported that the number of rhinos poached for their horns in South Africa fell by 10 percent in 2016 to 1,054, the second straight year of decline according to government data released last month, but conservationists said the levels remain alarming.
In the Kruger National Park, the epicenter of the slaughter, 662 rhino carcasses were found in 2016, an almost 20 percent fall from 826 in 2015, South Africa's environmental ministry said in a statement.
"This decrease can be attributed to the efforts of our men and women on the ground, especially our rangers," the ministry said.
It said the fall in poaching levels came despite an increase in criminal activity in the Kruger.
"For 2016 there were a staggering 2,883 instances of poaching-related activities in the park, compared to 2,466 recorded in the same period in 2015."
Those activities included poaching camps, contacts, crossings, sightings, tracks and shots fired.
"These criminal gangs are armed to the teeth, well-funded and part of transnational syndicates who will stop at nothing to get their hands on rhino horn," the ministry said.
It noted, however, that outside of Kruger and the Mpumalanga province which borders it, the number of rhinos killed had increased in some provinces.
"Rhino poaching figures remain unacceptably high," TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network, said in a statement.
"It's simply not possible to regard the sustained poaching of three rhinos each and every day as anything less than a continuation of the" said Tom Milliken, TRAFFICÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Rhino Programme Leader.Ã‚Â
A gruesome example of the extremes which rhino poaching has reached was the recent attack on a rhino orphanage.
Late last month two poachers broke into the Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage, held the staff captive, and shot two 18-month-old white rhinos just before sawing off their horns.
The perpetrators fled the scene, leaving one rhino dead from a fatal gunshot wound and the other severely incapacitated, later put down by the orphanage due to the injuries sustained.
Less than a week before the incident, both baby rhinosÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ parents also fell victim to poaching.
One of the baby rhinos stayed at his mother's carcass for six days, moving away just a short distance to eat - because he was obviously very hungry and very thirsty, before being rescued, said Karen Trendler, director of the orphanage, in an interview.
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