Rhino
2015 had double the number of rhinoceros poaching's in Zimbabwe compared to 2014Thomas Hawk/Flickr

More than double the amount of rhinos were poached in Zimbabwe last year compared to numbers from 2014. Official records show 50 rhinos were killed by poachers in 2015, while in 2014 20 were killed.

Most of the rhinos killed in 2015 were black rhinos; considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Experts believe the number may have increased as large elephants in the north-west of Africa have significantly declined, and poachers are having to look elsewhere.

"Until 2015, rhino poaching in Zimbabwe actually declined steadily from its peak in 2008, when about 150 rhinos were poached," said Raoul du Toit from the Lowveld Rhino Trust to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur. "Another factor has been the low levels of employment and relatively low salaries paid to anti-poaching staff."

With the number of unemployed continuing to increase in the country, conservationists are concerned that more people are turning to poaching as a means of providing for their families. Likewise, employees in wildlife parks are accepting more and more bribes from these people as their salaries remain low.

Only 800 rhinos remain in Zimbabwe, and most of them reside in private wildlife parks. Consequently, that is where most of the poaching takes place. There used to be more rhinos in national parks, but poaching has since reduced those numbers to very little.

Cyanide poisoning is also a growing concern for conservationists, after it proved an effective way for poachers to kill elephants in the region. They have since started targeting rhinos with cyanide, but Du Toit believes the poor ramifications from authorities are encouraging the killings.

Du Toit said: "The penalty for possession of cyanide remains very low compared to the damage that this poison causes, so harsher sentencing must be imposed to stop this form of poaching from spreading."

The police reject this claim, as spokesperson Charity Charamba responded: "Without necessarily zeroing in on the rhinos case, I would say police always work flat out to make suspects or perpetrators of heinous crimes such as poaching account for their actions."

Total global populations for white and black rhinos have decreased to just over 25,000 individuals.