rhino
Kruger National Park, home to the country’s largest rhino population has been particularly severely hit in 2014 with a staggering 827 rhinos poached.AFP

Official figures released by South Africa confirm that 2014 was the worst on record for rhino poaching with a total of 1,215 rhinos poached during the year.

An average of more than three animals per day or 100 per month were killed despite increased protection.

The figures raise concerns that rhino populations in South Africa may be in decline for the first time in nearly 100 years.

Corruption, internal institutional strife and judicial delays in key prosecutions are cited as the main reasons for the unchecked poaching in South Africa.

South Africa has desisted from joining the "London Declaration", an international pledge to take action made in February 2014 by countries directly impacted by the global poaching crisis.

"The lack of strong political will and active leadership from all arms of the government, neighbouring Mozambique and key Asian countries remains a serious impediment to turning this crisis situation around," said David Newton, Director of TRAFFIC in East and Southern Africa in a press release.

The Kruger National Park, home to the country's largest rhino population has been particularly severely hit: a staggering 827 rhinos were poached there in 2014.

The huge 20,000 km park has open borders with neighbouring Mozambique, from where poaching syndicates operate with little fear of arrest or prosecution from Mozambican authorities.

However, several Kruger park rangers were arrested last year in connection with poaching incidents inside the park.

A follow-up meeting to the London Declaration will take place in Kasane, Botswana, this March to review progress made.

The South African Police Service, and specifically the "Hawks", a key agency addressing wildlife crime in the country, has seen the suspension of a number of senior officers. This distraction means the poaching crisis is not receiving the agency's full attention.

Trials dragging on for more than four years have added to the concerns.

TRAFFIC sees 2015 as a critical year for rhino populations in South Africa.

"Another year of poaching like 2014 and it becomes increasingly difficult to see a positive conservation future for South African rhinos," said Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC's Elephant and Rhino Programme Leader. "We're facing a 'do or die' situation right now."

The northern white rhino is on its last leg in Africa with numbers down to five, and even those incapable of reproducing. Poached out of existence for its horn, the white rhino has been more vulnerable being less aggressive and once moving in herds.