South Africa will evacuate hundreds of rhinos from Kruger National Park to stop poachers from killing them and selling their horns on the black market, South Africa's environment minister said Tuesday.
Park authorities will relocate up to 500 rhinos to secret sites in South Africa and neighboring countries, Bloomberg reported.
More than 80% of Africa's rhinos live in South Africa, where illegal poaching is rising sharply despite official efforts to catch and punish poachers.
Kruger National Park, which is about the same size as Wales or Israel, is also South Africa's biggest poaching hub, the BBC reported.
More than 630 rhinos have been killed in South Africa in 2014 so far, 408 of which were in Kruger National Park, The Telegraph reported. In 2007, South African officials confirmed 13 cases of poaching, compared to 1,004 in 2013, the BBC said.
There are about 20,000 white rhinos in the wild, and about 4,800 black rhinos, according to the World Wildlife Fund. A 2013 study recorded between 8,400 and 9,600 white rhinos and around 2,000 black rhinos in Kruger National Park, Bloomberg News said.
Each rhino can weigh up to a ton. South Africa's environment minister told The Telegraph that each one could cost up to $2,000 to evacuate.
International trade in rhino horn was banned in 1977 but is still going strong. There is particularly high demand from some Asian countries where rhino horns are believed to cure diseases like cancer, and are considered a symbol of wealth.
Some conservationists have estimated the black market price for rhino horn at $65,000 per kilogram — more than gold and platinum — The Telegraph said.
Former BuzzFeed World Reporter, Current BuzzFeed News Contributor