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Rhinos are being killed in unprecedented numbers because the street value for rhino horn is worth more than gold, reports David Randall and Jonathan Owen of The Independent. The main market is in China, where it is used for medicine and jewelry. In Vietnam, widespread rumours that rhino horn can cure cancer as well as its luxury status have caused demand to spike, leading to the Javan rhino becoming extinct in the country in November.
The hefty sum paid for rhino horn — about $65,000 a kilo — has attracted international organised crime groups that are usually involved in the trafficking of drugs, arms and humans.
There are currently around 25,000 rhinos in Africa (low in relation to historical numbers) and they face extinction if poaching continues at current rates. The Independent writes that it would be the first major extinction of an animal in the wild since the worldwide conservation movement began.
Wildlife specialists expect the surge in poaching to continue as long as demand remains strong in the Far East.