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Killing of Rhinos in South Africa Increases in 2014

For VOA Learning English, this is the Science Report.

The poaching, or illegal killing, of rhinos in South Africa is growing worse each year. The government recently reported that a record number of rhinos were poached in 2014. The killings continue even though the government has increased efforts to try to stop poachers.

Edna Molewa is South Africa’s environmental issues minister. She said that last year 1,215 rhinos were killed. That is a 21 percent increase from 2013. The World Wildlife Fund, or WWF, estimates 20,000 rhinos live in South Africa. That is more than 80 percent of the world’s rhinos. The animals are hunted for their horns.

Many people in Asia believe the horns have healing powers. But there is no scientific evidence for this belief. The horn is made of something called keratin. That is the same substance as human hair, fingernails and toenails. Ms. Molewa said 386 suspected poachers were arrested last year, an increase from the year before. But rhino protection workers say poachers often go unpunished after arrest.

Ms. Molewa said more needs to be done. She said South Africa is taking strong measures to protect rhinos. This includes moving some of the animals to secret places in neighboring countries. She said 200 more rhinos will be moved this year.

Jo Shaw is the rhino program manager at the WWF. She spoke to VOA on Skype. She said losing a hundred rhinos a month in South Africa is very worrying. Ms. Shaw said what is needed is careful organized action on both the national and international levels. She wants the people who are responsible for killing the rhinos to be brought to justice.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Alex Villarreal.

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