South Africa and Kenya have seen a dramatic rise in rhino poaching in the last year, national parks officials said.
Reuters reports that 333 rhinos were killed for their tusks in South Africa in 2010. 10 of those were black rhinos, which are critically endangered.
That figure is the highest on record, nearly three times the number of rhinos killed the previous year.
Six more rhinos have already been illegally killed in 2011, Reuters said.
International wildlife monitoring group TRAFFIC said rhino horns are highly valuable for their perceived role in traditional Asian medicine. They are thought to possess cancer-curing properties, although their is no scientific evidence to support that notion.
According to AFP, poachers can sell rhino horns to the first intermediary for about $8,000 per kilo; an adult rhino’s two horns weigh about 10 kilos.
“The current wave of poaching is being committed by sophisticated criminal networks using helicopters, night-vision equipment, veterinary tranquilizers and silencers to kill rhinos at night while attempting to avoid law enforcement patrols,” TRAFFIC said in a statement.
South Africa is home to 21,000 rhinos, more than any other country in the world.
Kenya officials said at least 20 rhinos were killed in the country since early last year.