CEO of WWF-South Africa, Dr Morné du Plessis, said rhino poaching is being conducted by sophisticated international criminal syndicates that smuggle horns to Asia.
“Its not enough to bust the little guy – investigators need to shut down the kingpins organising these criminal operations,” he said.
The syndicates have capitalised on an in increased demand for rhino horn in Asia, particularly Vietnam.
Law enforcement officials in South Africa made 232 arrests related to rhino poaching in 2011. But, despite the increased efforts by authorities, poaching-related rhino deaths continue to rise.
Last year the the number of rhino lost to poaching reached 448, up considerably from the 333 killed by poachers in 2010 (triple the 2009 figure).
“The rate of poaching increase may appear to be faltering, but the bottom line is more rhinos than ever were poached in 2011,” said Dr Colman O Criodain, WWF’s wildlife trade policy analyst.
“If left unchecked, poaching gangs could put the survival of these iconic species in jeopardy.”
A large proportion of rhino deaths have occurred in the Kruger National Park, where 252 rhino were killed last year.
Alarmingly, 11 rhino carcasses have already been discovered in the park in 2012.
On Wednesday, 8 carcasses were found – all adults which had been shot and dehorned.
The additional carcasses were found after an aerial search on Thursday morning.