The African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG) has warned that overall population numbers could begin to fall by 2015.
So far this year, one rhino has been killed by poachers every 11 hours.
Experts at a meeting held by the AfRSG revealed that almost 2,400 rhinos have been poached in Africa since 2005. This has reduced the population growth of both African rhino species to some of the lowest levels since 1995.
Between 2011 and 2012, poaching in Africa increased by a staggering 43 per cent, with the death of nearly three per cent of the total population in 2012.
Mike Knight, chairman of the AfRSG, said: “Well organised and well funded crime syndicates are continuing to feed the growing black market with rhino horn.”
However, environmental researchers have suggested that legalising rhino horn may be the only way to save their lives.
In Science journal, lead author of the research Dr Duan Biggs, from the University of Queensland, said: “The current situation is failing, the longer we wait to put in place a legal trade the more rhinos we lose.”
He looks to current crocodile policy as guidance, “There has been a very successful legal trade for some time now which has more or less eradicated pressures on wild crocodile populations.”
However, a wildlife trade policy analyst with WWF believes “the legal trade could make it worse”.
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