rhinoSouth Africa has finally finished compiling its report on the number of rhinos poached in the country last year and, as expected, the news is terrible. All-told, 1,215 rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa in 2014, the highest number ever and an increase of 21 percent over 2013.

By comparison, just 13 rhinos were killed by poachers in 2007. The poaching crisis began the next year and took off in 2010 as more and more of the horns were bound for Asia, where they are used in traditional medicine and as a hangover cure.

rhino poachingThe vast majority of last year’s poaching deaths—827—occurred in Kruger National Park, which also holds the majority of South Africa’s rhinos. Unfortunately, the park borders Mozambique and poachers from that country traveled in and out of the reserve with near-impunity. In addition, several Kruger rangers were arrested in the past year and charged with aiding and abetting the poachers.

Although poaching increased throughout South Africa, so did arrests, which went up to 386 from 343 in 2013. Arrests in Kruger National Park were up from 133 to 174.

South Africa is home to approximately 80 percent of the world’s rhinos, but it is not the only place where rhinos are poached. Outside of South Africa, rhino poaching also took place in several other African and Asian countries. Most notable, 27 rhinos were killed last year in India’s Kaziranga National Park, which recently put out a list of 323 wanted poachers. Namibia lost at least 24 rhinos last year. The deaths affect almost all rhino species, including the black and white rhinos of Africa and the greater one-horned rhinos of India. Only the Sumatran and Javan rhinos of Indonesia appear to have escaped poachers last year. Of course, there are only about 100 and 35 individuals remain from those two species, respectively, so that’s not much of a victory.

Many conservation groups warn that the next decade will be critical for all rhino species. Sumatran and Javan rhinos exist on the brink of extinction. Africa’s rhinos, meanwhile, now lose more rhinos to poachers than they make up with breeding.

Although a new year is now upon us, the deaths are far from over. As of press time, 49 rhinos have already been poached in South Africa in 2015. If last year was any indication, we can expect that number to climb to at least 100 by the end of the month.

Photo: A rhino in Kruger National Park by Russ Huggett. Used under Creative Commons license

Previously in Extinction Countdown:

Elsewhere in Scientific American: