White Rhino and her calf walk
Record 393 rhinos poached in South Africa in first third of 2015REUTERS / Mike Hutchings

Rhino poaching in South Africa has claimed a record amount of the giant herbivores in the first third of the year, statistics have revealed.

Figures from the country's environment minister show that in the first four months of 2015, a record 393 rhinos were killed by poachers – up 18% on the same time last year. Some 290 of these were killed in the Kruger national park. It is believed that there are around 20,700 rhinos still living in South Africa, with the majority living in the vast park. Save The Rhino International says that 73% of the world's rhino population resides in South Africa.

Edna Molewa, environment minister, said that the country is trying to deal with the growing problem but that resources are stretched: "This is not deliberate, it is because of the heavy load of work that we have. We are soldiering on, we do think that this fight will have to be won and we will win it."

So far, South Africa seems to be losing the battle against rhino poaching with the numbers rising rapidly since 2008.

In 2007, just 13 rhinos were poached in South Africa, the following year this jumped to 83. In 2012, 668 were killed, 2013 saw 1,004 slaughtered and last year 1,215 were killed with the figure looking like it will grow once more in 2015.

At the start of the year, the SA government said that it would be exploring the possibility of legalising and regulating rhino horn trade in a bid to halt the relentless, yet lucrative, poaching.