Almost all of the rhinos on Earth reside in South Africa, where the local military, police and diplomats are banding together to protect the beasts from hordes of poachers in the area who are killing the animals for their precious horns.
Despite the protection, rhinos are losing the fight against poachers who are responsible for more deaths of the animals than there are animals being born.
"We are fighting a counter-insurgency now. The war is escalating. It is more aggressive and there is more firepower," retired army major general Johan Jooste said, as relayed by Associated Press.
It has become Jooste's responsibility to militarize park rangers in South Africa's Kruger National Park, where many rhinos roam.
It's likely that South Africa will lose more than 800 rhinos this year, due to their horns being valued by poachers who are selling the items to "international crime syndicates" that in turn grant supplies to markets in Southeast Asia, where such horns are thought to be helpful in curing such ailments as hangovers and even cancer.
Though the number of rhinos being lost is at a record-breaking high, it is still not considered enough to distinguish the animals as a species in decline. Should the rate of poaching continue to rise, however, more than 1,000 rhinos will be killed in 2014.
This number represents nearly five percent of South Africa's rhino population that will lose their lives to poachers who are finding prices for horns at values greater than that of gold.
"The rate of poaching continues to rise and we are getting ever closer to that dangerous tipping point," said Jo Shaw, the rhino coordinator for the global conservation agency World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Richard Emslie, who is an expert in rhinos, believes that if current rates of poaching continue, 2015 will be the "tipping point" for the animals on their way to being considered on the verge of being wiped out. South Africa's environment ministry predicts 2016 will be the year to watch out for, and after this "tipping point" it will take only a decade for wild rhinos to be eliminated in the country.
Rhinos were not nearly as poached until 2010, when rumors of a minister's relative in Vietnam being cured by rhino horn led to the items being considered so valuable.
"There is no basis in science to support the claim," Associated Press reports.
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