JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Nov. 1 (UPI) — South African President officially opened a joint operations center on Sunday at Kruger National Park to coordinate efforts to stop rampant rhino poaching.
Zuma said saving rhinos, targeted by poachers for their horns, will have a direct impact on the country’s economy and crime rate. Through the Mission Area Joint Operation Centre — a coordinated effort between the police and the country’s environmental affairs department, park services and conservation agencies — steps are being taken quell the mass destruction of the enormous animals. In 2011, the country declared rhino poaching a threat to national security.
“Saving the rhino may ultimately save all our communities from poverty, increased crime and suffering,” Zuma said. “I am convinced that through our concerted efforts in ensuring co-ordinated implementation of the integrated strategic approach to the management of Rhino populations, we will ultimately win the fight against Rhino poaching.”
South Africa is known to have the largest rhino population in the world. Experts predict if the poaching rate continues rhino deaths will outpace births beginning in 2016. The animal’s horn is widely used in Asian countries, mainly Vietnam and China, for its alleged medical benefits and as a status symbol.