Johannesburg (AFP) - South Africa has jailed two Mozambicans for 11 years for rhino poaching, police said Wednesday, as latest tallies revealed slaughter of the iconic animals climbing to a new high.
A court in the eastern province of Mpumalanga found Phinias Sithole, 23, and France Nkuna, 22, guilty of trespassing in Kruger National Park and of possessing an unlicenced hunting rifle and an axe.
They were sentenced on Monday following their arrest in October.
"This conviction will serve as a deterrent to other would-be poachers," police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo said in a statement.
New figures released at the weekend showed that the country has lost a record 749 rhino to poaching this year, an almost five percent increase from the same period last year.
Experts believe that the scale of killings could be much higher because many of the dead animals are never discovered.
The number of rhinos killed has rocketed from 13 in 2007 to 1,215 last year.
Demand for the rhinoceros horn -- which is made of keratin, which is also found in hair and nails -- has boomed in Vietnam and China, where it is valued for its supposed medicinal properties.
South Africa is home to around 20,000 rhino, or 80 percent of the world population.