[URL]http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/18/poachers-kill-last-female-rhino[/URL]\n\nPoachers kill last female rhino in South African park for prized horn\nRecord levels of poaching are endangering survival of rhinoceros in\nSouth Africa\n (240)\nTweet this (306)\nAlex Duval Smith\nThe Observer, Sunday 18 July 2010\nArticle history\n\nThe last rhinoceros cow in Krugersdorp park, South Africa, bled to\ndeath on Wednesday after poachers hacked off her horn. Photograph:\nReuters\nSouth African wildlife experts are calling for urgent action against\npoachers after the last female rhinoceros in a popular game reserve\nnear Johannesburg bled to death after having its horn hacked off.\n\nWildlife officials say poaching for the prized horns has now reached\nan all-time high. "Last year, 129 rhinos were killed for their horns\nin South Africa. This year, we have already had 136 deaths," said\nJapie Mostert, chief game ranger at the 1,500-hectare Krugersdorp game\nreserve.\n\nThe gang used tranquilliser guns and a helicopter to bring down the\nnine-year-old rhino cow. Her distraught calf was moved to a nearby\nestate where it was introduced to two other orphaned white rhinos.\n\nWanda Mkutshulwa, a spokeswoman for South African National Parks, said\ninvestigations into the growing number of incidents had been shifted\nto the country's organised crime unit. "We are dealing with very\nfocused criminals. Police need to help game reserves because they are\nnot at all equipped to handle crime on such an organised level,'' she\nsaid.\n\nRhino horn consists of compressed keratin fibre – similar to hair –\nand in many Asian cultures it is a fundamental ingredient in\ntraditional medicines.\n\nMkutshulwa said poaching was also rife in the Kruger Park. Five men\nwere arrested there in the past week alone – four of whom were caught\nwith two bloodied rhino horns, AK-47 assault rifles, bolt-action\nrifles and an axe.\n\nKrugersdorp game reserve attracts at least 200,000 visitors every\nyear. It is also close to a private airport, which may have been used\nby the poachers.\n\n"The exercise takes them very little time," Mostert said. "They first\nfly over the park in the late afternoon to locate where the rhino is\ngrazing. Then they return at night and dart the animal from the air.\nThe tranquilliser takes less than seven minutes to act.\n\n"They saw off the horns with a chainsaw. They do not even need to\nswitch off the rotors of the helicopter. We do not hear anything\nbecause our houses are too far away. The animal dies either from an\noverdose of tranquilliser or bleeds to death."\n\nThe committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered\nSpecies (Cites) warned last year that rhino poaching had reached an\nall-time high. The Cites conference in Geneva in July 2009 heard that\nAsia's economic expansion had fuelled the market in rhino horns. The\nhorns are also used in the Middle East to make handles for ornamental\ndaggers. Cites said demand for them had begun to soar in recent years.\nIn the five years up to 2005, an average of only 36 rhinos had been\nkilled each year.\n\nConservationists estimate that there are only 18,000 black and white\nrhinos in Africa, down from 65,000 in the 1970s. Mostert, who has been\na ranger for 20 years, said the animals fetch up to 1m rand (£85,000)\nat game auctions and cannot be insured.\n\nCites has praised South Africa for its action against poachers. Two\nweeks ago, a Vietnamese man was jailed for 10 years for trying to\nsmuggle horns out of the country.