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Increase in Illegal Killing of Rhinos in Africa, Asia

A new report says the animals are being hunted for Asian trade in their horns, especially in Vietnam. Still, some rhino populations are growing. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

A new report says the illegal killing of rhinos for their horns is increasing in Africa and Asia. Rhinoceros poachers are killing an estimated two to three of the rare animals each week.

Experts say demand in Asia -- especially Vietnam and China -- currently drives most trade in rhino horns from southern Africa. The horns are often used to make traditional medicines, or handles for dagger knives.

The report is from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and an organization known as Traffic.

Most African rhino poaching is in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Experts found that two hundred ten rhinos were illegally killed in South Africa in the last three years.

The estimate for Zimbabwe is two hundred thirty-five. The situation threatens gains made in its rhino populations in the nineteen nineties. In the last two years, only six people were found guilty of poaching charges out of forty-one arrested.

In two thousand one, sixty-eight percent of African rhino horns entering illegal trade were recovered. By this year, nine out of ten were heading to Asian markets without interference.

The report says poaching and illegal horn trade has increased in South Africa even with new measures against it.

Adding to the problem, poachers today are more skilled at killing rhinos, and not only with guns. They also use quieter methods, like veterinary drugs, poison and crossbows.

An international agreement on protecting endangered animals and plants provides for sport hunting of white rhinos in Africa. But the horns often enter illegal markets.

Not all the news is bad, however. The report notes that rhino populations are increasing in some areas. These include both white rhinos and black rhinos in the wild in Africa.

Africa had an estimated seventeen thousand white rhinos and four thousand black rhinos as of two years ago. Current estimates for Asia are around three thousand rhinos. But even with poaching, growth is reported in some areas of India and Nepal.

Wildlife activists are urging governments to do more to fight rhino poaching.

The report was presented to the organization known as CITES. CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The next conference of countries that are parties to the agreement is in March in Doha, Qatar.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by June Simms. I'm Steve Ember.