JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — A wildlife park's decision to auction off the right to hunt a white rhino has caused outrage in South Africa, which in 2011 saw a record number of rhinos poached for their horns.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the conservation authority in KwaZulu-Natal province, announced that a local businessman had paid $12,000 for the right to hunt a male white rhinoceros at Mkuze Game Reserve, South Africa's Independent Online reported.
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Rhino hunting remains legal in South Africa, with a license, despite a dramatic rise in the past few years of the number of rhinos killed illegally for their horns.
The poaching is fueled by demand for rhino horns in Vietnam and other Asian countries, where they are used in traditional medicine despite the fact that experts say they have no medicinal value.
South Africa is targeted because it has more rhinos than any other country, thanks to conservation efforts.
Ezemvelo had asked people to bid online to kill the animal, and said the animal was "surplus," as the reserve had reached capacity, the Independent reported.
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Simon Bloch, of the group Outraged South African Citizens Against Poaching, called for the unnamed businessman "to identify himself, exchange his high-powered rifle for a camera, take the shot and walk away," the Independent reported.
Ezemvelo's chief executive, Bandile Mkhize, told the newspaper that the money raised through hunting auctions helps conservation efforts.
At least 443 rhinos were killed in South Africa in 2011, up from 333 in 2010, according to South Africa's national park service and wildlife conservationists. In 2007, only 13 rhinos were lost to poachers.
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