A growing demand for rhino horns, which are considered medicinal and also used as status symbols, led to the illegal killing of 1,004 rhinos in 2013, nearly three per day. This in comparison to 2007 when only 13 rhinos were killed.
In the first two weeks of this year, 37 rhinos have been killed in South Africa. The white rhino was considered a conservation victory when its numbers rose from 100 rhinos in the nineteenth century to around 20,000 today.
Rhino horns are in big demand in countries like Vietnam and China and can sell for $65,000 per kilogram. Much of the poaching takes place at the Kruger National Park, which borders Mozambique, and has conservationists worried that the number of deaths could soon outnumber the number of births, leading to a decline in rhino populations.
"If this kind of attrition is sustained for much longer we are definitely going to see South Africa's rhinos go into decline for the first time in a hundred years," Tom Milliken from Traffic International, an organization that monitors wildlife trade, told BBC News.
The granting of sporting licenses has added to the number of rhinos killed and helped the export of rhino horns. The 142 mile porous border between Mozambique and South Africa has't helped the situation either.
"One wonders if it is really possible to kill over 1,000 rhino if there isn't some degree of collusion and internal corruption that is going on?" said Milliken.
Last year, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species asked Vietnam and Mozambique to take action to curtail such trade. Vietnam is expected to report this month on their efforts to curtail such trade, while Mozambique has been asked to increase penalties for those trading in rhino parts.