Conservationists have confirmed the number of rhinos across Africa increased last year, hailing the first bit of "good news" in a decade for an animal heavily threatened by poaching.
"With this good news, we can take a sigh of relief for the first time in a decade," said Michael Knight, a wildlife ecologist who chairs the IUCN's African Rhino Specialist Group.
The IUCN combined rhino estimates from various nations to produce the continental tally and said a combination of protection and biological management initiatives had led the number of black rhinos to increase by 4.2 percent to 6,487.
White rhinos were up 5.6 percent to 16,803, the first increase since 2012, IUCN said.
"It is imperative to further consolidate and build upon this positive development and not drop our guard," Knight added.
🦏 It's #WorldRhinoDay, and new figures show that African rhino numbers are increasing despite poaching.African authorities have estimated that there were 5.2% more rhinos across the continent at the end of 2022, compared to 2021.Learn more ➡️ https://t.co/psBYYiuj52 pic.twitter.com/lTbsSdTmsO-- IUCN (@IUCN) September 22, 2023
Rhinos have been decimated by decades of poaching driven by demand from Asia, where horns are used in traditional medicine for their supposed therapeutic effects.
More than 550 rhinos were killed by poachers across the continent in 2022, mostly in South Africa, according to the IUCN.
South Africa is home to nearly 80 percent of the world's rhinos.
Poachers there have increasingly targeted privately owned reserves in their hunt for horns, highly sought in black markets where the price per weight rivals that of gold and cocaine at an estimated $60,000 (56,400 euros) per kilogram.