By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG (AA) - A total of 24 rhino carcasses have been found across South Africa since Dec. 1, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment said in a series of tweets late Tuesday.
The department said seven carcasses were found at Kruger National Park, one of Africa’s largest game reserves, seven in Mpumalanga province, six in KwaZulu-Natal and four in the Western Cape province.
The department condemned the continued poaching of rhinos for their horns and revealed that nine poachers have been arrested since the start of December.
South Africa is home to nearly 80% of the world's rhinos. Currently, there are less than 30,000 African rhinos remaining, with the biggest population at Kruger National Park.
In July, Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said 249 rhinos were killed in the country for their horns in the first six months of 2021.
Creecy attributed the increase in poaching to the easing of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in the country.
In the first half of 2020, 166 rhinos were killed, while in the first six months of 2019, when there were no lockdown restrictions, 318 rhinos were poached.
The minister said the highest number of poaching incidents took place at Kruger National Park, where 132 rhinos were poached and one elephant was killed.
She said a number of arrests have been made and those responsible prosecuted in the past six months.
Creecy added that numerous confiscations of rhino horns have taken place since January thanks to South Africa’s cohesive partnership with countries in Southeast Asia, where the horns are in high demand.
In some Asian countries, the horns are used for traditional medicines or as a status symbol for the wealthy.
The environment department said it will give an update on the total number of rhinos killed for their horns in 2021 early in 2022.