1215. According to OSCAP, that’s South Africa's (unofficial) rhino poaching death toll for last year. That’s 211 more animals than the year before and nearly a fourfold increase over 2010. 1215. That’s more than three rhinos a day.

Rhino Tracker January 2015 2015 01 09

South Africa is at the heart of the bloody poaching war as it’s home to over 90 percent of the world’s rhino population. It’s a battle that anti-poaching task forces and government officials are losing … though not for lack of trying. Wildlife crime ranks amongst the world’s most pervasive illegal activities and sophisticated poaching syndicates eager to cash in make controlling the rampant killing a massive challenge. Many of the poachers enter South Africa from neighbouring Mozambique, where impoverished villagers are tempted by the prospect of quick money.

Rhino Horn Reuters 2014 06 12
In traditional medicine, rhino horn has been prescribed for just about everything, from curing demonic possession to treating typhoid, colds and fevers. Image: Reuters

Coveted as an ingredient in Asian traditional medicine, the horns can fetch up to $65,000 a kilo – a hefty price tag that makes them more valuable than gold. Experts believe that December heralds a rise in poaching incidents as syndicates stock up on horn ahead of the Chinese New Year in February. This final wave of killing has pushed the figures into record-breaking territory.

And the news for elephants is no better. Although the figures have not been released, some conservationists believe that the number of animals being slaughtered for their ivory is likely exceeding the number of new elephants being born. This could be a tipping point towards decline for Africa’s 500,000 elephants.

According to Richard Thomas, spokesman for TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network, “2015 will be key, possibly the most significant yet in the battle to save the world's iconic animals.”