Rhino poachers have caused the extinction of the species in Mozambique's huge Limpopo National Park. Park director António Abacar said that the last sighting of a living rhinoceros in the park was in January. The lack of sightings since then means that the 300 animals that lived in the park around 2002 are now presumed dead.
He said that poachers, including 30 employees who worked as park rangers, were involved in the killing. The 30 accused men will appear in court to answer charges related to the poaching, but that won't bring back the rhinoceros.
Abacar warned that the poaching won't stop. Instead, the poachers will turn their attention to the remaining Limpopo National Park elephants.
The huge park, which covers 1.1 million hectares -- described by Scientific American as about the size of the entire state of Rhode Island -- is also part of the Cross-border Limpopo International Park which includes South Africa's Kruger National Park and Zimbabwe's Gonarezhou Park.
South Africa is particularly upset by the continued poaching, which is a human as well as an animal tragedy.
Wildlife investigator Ken Maggs said bluntly: "We are up against a counter insurgency war."
The South African army and police have killed 279 poachers from neighboring Mozambique since 2008. Another 300 Mozambican poachers have been captured alive.
As the last stronghold for rhinoceros species in Africa, the nation of South Africa and particularly its Kruger Park have been under assault in recent years. The price of powdered rhino horn has skyrocketed on the black market.
With the horn reportedly selling for tens of thousands of dollars a pound, rhino poachers are willing to take any risk -- and willing to kill the very last animal.
South African officials have even threatened to drop out of the international park system and replace the former anti-poaching fences on its border with Mozambique. With Limpopo's rhinos gone, the poachers seem certain to continue to assault Kruger's remaining rhinos.
At least 232 rhinos have already been killed in South Africa by poachers since the start of the year. Could rhino extinction in South Africa's parks be next?
[wild rhinoceros photo by Jane Fresco via Wikipedia Commons]