CAPE TOWN, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- The number of rhino poached for their horns since January 2013 has increased to 725, exceeding the annual record of 668 set in 2012, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) said on Thursday.
This came despite intensified efforts to curb the scourge, the DEA said in its latest update on rhino poaching statistics.
Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies have arrested 228 suspected poachers, the department said.
South Africa has developed and maintained a proud conservation record.
"Ironically, the very success of our national conservation effort which has resulted in over 73 percent of the world's rhino population being conserved in our country has, in turn, resulted in South Africa being targeted by international criminal rhino poaching syndicates," the department said. South Africa's rhino population will be close to extinction by 2026 if no effective measures were taken, the government warns.
Crime syndicates are believed to be behind growing rhino poaching, fueled by demand for rhino horns which are said to cure all diseases, notably cancer, although there is no scientific evidence to prove this.