A White Rhino and her calf walk in the dusk light in Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa's North West Province April 19, 2012. Elephant and rhino poaching is surging, conservationists say, an illegal piece of Asia's scramble for African resources, driven by the growing purchasing power of the region's newly affluent classes. In South Africa, nearly two rhinos a day are being killed to meet demand for the animal's horn, which is worth more than its weight in gold. Picture taken April 19, 2012. To match Feature AFRICA-POACHING/ REUTERS/Mike Hutchings (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT ANIMALS)

The rhino poaching epidemic has continued unabated into the new year with the slaughter of a bull in the Madikwe Game Reserve in North West.

The province’s Department of Environmental Affairs confirmed that the animal had been found dead at the weekend.

“Both the horns of the bull were removed. The cause of death was a shot near the front of his neck,” said spokeswoman Dumisa Seshabela. No arrests had been made and investigations were continuing, she added.

The last official count for the number of rhinos poached in 2012 was 633, but this figure was given by the national Department of Environmental Affairs on December 19 and was likely to have been higher by December 31.

The figure is well above the 448 rhinos poached in 2011 and the 333 killed in 2010.

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, poachers killed four white rhinos in a raid on a privately run game reserve in the north-eastern part of the country on New Year’s Day, the parks department announced.

Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority spokeswoman Caroline Washaya-Moyo said the animals’ horns had been sawn off the carcasses but had not yet been removed when rangers discovered the killings on Thetford Estate in the farming town of Mazowe.

Last month, SA National Parks chief executive Dr David Mabunda announced rewards of up to R1 million for information about rhino poachers, and the appointment of a retired army general with combat experience to head up anti-poaching efforts in the Kruger National Park which is under siege by poachers.

The organisation is to pay a reward of R100 000 for information regarding poachers active in national parks, and R1m for information about rhino poaching kingpins.

In a “Rhino Alive – Crime Line” advertisement, SANParks states: “We can’t put a price on our rhinos, but we can put a price on those who slaughter them.

“Let’s get tough on rhino poaching and preserve our heritage.”

President Jacob Zuma said in his New Year message that South Africans needed a society free from abuse and violence, as well as one where animals, especially rhinos, were safe.

l sms tip-offs about poaching anonymously to Crime-Line at 32211 or call 08600 10111.

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Cape Argus