Zimbabwe to dehorn rhino to shut out poachers

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HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe plans to dehorn all rhino in its national parks to discourage poaching after 50 animals were illegally killed last year, a wildlife conservation group said on Tuesday.

Rhino horn is prized in Asia for use in traditional medicine and surging demand has led to more poaching. A record 1,305 rhino were killed illegally in Africa last year, most of them in South Africa, according to conservation groups.

Lisa Marabini, director of operations with Aware Trust Zimbabwe, said the organisation was one of two groups helping the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority remove horns from 100 rhino in state game parks, which are targeted by poachers because they are less secure.

Some 600 rhino are kept in private sanctuaries, which may choose to dehorn their animals or increase security, Marabini said.

“We want to send a message to poachers that they will not get much if they come to Zimbabwe. The park’s policy is to dehorn all the rhino,” Marabini said.

It costs $1,200 to dehorn a rhino, Marabini said.

Buying and selling rhino horn internationally was banned in 1977. In Zimbabwe, killing a rhino carries a mandatory nine-year sentence.

The World Wildlife Fund said in January 50 rhino had been killed in Zimbabwe in 2015, double the figure for the previous year.

(This version of the story has been corrected to make clear all rhinos in state parks to be dehorned, private game parks may not)

Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Ed Cropley