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Was the last rhino in Mozambique killed?

International media has latched onto the story of the "last 15 rhinos killed" in Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.

Rhino poaching kruger national park 2013 05 01Enlarge
Rhinoceros resting in the Kruger National Park near Nelspruit, South Africa. (Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The last rhino in Mozambique has been killed by poachers.

At least that's what the media would have you believe.

A few days ago, a local Johannesburg paper, the Times, ran a story about game rangers in the Mozambique section of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, who colluded with poachers to murder the last 15 rhinos out of an original population of 300.

The Times cited a statement from the reputable conservation group, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which based its facts on a Mozambique press agency story from last week.

AIM, the news agency, quotes park warden Antonio Abacar as saying there are no rhinos left in the country’s Limpopo National Park as a result of poaching.

"Since I arrived last January I have never been in the presence of this species inside the park," Abacar told AIM, "which means that those who lived in the park are now probably dead."

According to the news story, while a 2011 census found there were still some rhinos left in the park, these animals are thought to have disappeared by the end of that year.

This report is headline-grabbing, but it is unclear when Mozambique’s last rhinos were killed, or whether they were even from Mozambique — they could just as well have crossed the porous land border from South Africa.

Given the dramatic escalation in poaching over the last five years, it is unlikely there have been rhinos in the Mozambican wild for quite some time.

To give you a lay of the land, South Africa's vast Kruger National Park stretches for 220 miles along the border with Mozambique. The northern section of Kruger joins up with a cross-border reserve, the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which also includes parks in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. There is little fencing for much of this, allowing animals to cross back and forth.

More from GlobalPost: The last rhino standing, an in-depth series

The rhino-poaching crisis has hit South Africa's Kruger park the hardest, with many of the poachers crossing into Kruger from Mozambique. The border is now patrolled by the South African military, in addition to rangers, but this has done little to stop the rampant poaching.

Some 300 Mozambicans have been detained in South Africa for poaching between 2008 and the start of February, and 279 have been shot and killed by security forces, according to the Mozambican daily newspaper O Pais.

Mozambique, where regulations and enforcement is lax and corruption is rife, is also increasingly being used as a shipment point for rhino horn as well as for elephant ivory being smuggled from Africa to Asia.

The real crisis is what is currently happening in South Africa, particularly Kruger park, and the failure of Mozambique to help tackle the problem.

According to the latest rhino-poaching statistics from South Africa, as of April 30, there have been 273 rhinos killed this year. A whopping 201 of those rhinos were killed in the Kruger park alone.

Abacar said that in Mozambique, since rhinos have been wiped out, elephants are now being targeted by poachers.

He said that at least 30 members of staff are currently facing disciplinary action related to poaching.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/wildlife-news/130501/rhino-poaching-mozambique-rhinoceros-south-africa