Appetite for rhino horn from Asia, in particular Vietnam, has driven the killing in South Africa, which ministers have warned in turn threatens the country's tourism sector. Demand is so high that a kilogramme of rhino horn is now worth more than gold or cocaine.
The UK prime minister, David Cameron, is hosting a summit in London next month in a bid to tackle the trade which has also seen tens of thousands of elephants killed in Africa annually in recent years.
Data chart shows steep rise in rhino killing
Conservationists said action must be taken now. Tom Milliken, rhino expert at wildlife trade monitors Traffic, said: "South Africa and Mozambique [a transit hub for wildlife products leaving Africa] must decisively up their game if they hope to stop this blatant robbery of southern Africa's natural heritage. 2014 must mark the turning point where the world, collectively says 'enough is enough' and brings these criminal networks down.