GLAND, Switzerland, March 10 (UPI) -- Rhino deaths by poaching climbed for the sixth consecutive year in Africa due to rising demands for their horn in Asia.
In a new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the slight decline in rhino slaughter in South Africa, where the majority of Africa's rhino population live, was offset by growing losses in Nambia and Zimbabwe, leading to a record 1,338 rhinos killed on the continent in 2015. Nearly 6,000 rhinos have been killed since 2008.
Conservationists believe South Africa's efforts to protect their tourism industry and take a harder line against poaching has pushed some of the criminal groups out of the country.
"They [poachers] operate like an amoeba so if you push in one place they expand elsewhere," said Mike Knight, chair of the IUCU's African rhino specialist group.
But there were signs the rate of poaching could slow.
"So there is now a flicker of hope," he said.
IUCU experts said the white rhino population leveled off to between 19,000 and 21,000 in 2015. The black rhino population is much smaller at just over 5,000, but saw a growth of about 2.9 percent since 2012.
Knight praised South Africa officials for seeing the poaching as a economic crime as well as a wildlife crime and hoped other countries would follow.
"You cannot win this war in the parks. You have to win it outside protected areas." Knight said. "It's not only [the] wildlife sector, it has to be customs and excise, it has to be police."