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Some activists worry South Africa rhino poaching toll could be higher than official stats

FILE - In this file photo takentaken Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014 a darted rhino is blind-folded before being grounded for skin and blood samples to be taken, and microchipped, near Skukuza, South Africa, before being transported by truck to an area hopefully safe from poachers in a bid to cut down on the numbers killed by poachers. Some conservationists believe that the reported numbers of rhinos killed could be much higher than recorded. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell, File)

FILE - In this file photo takentaken Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014 a darted rhino is blind-folded before being grounded for skin and blood samples to be taken, and microchipped, near Skukuza, South Africa, before being transported by truck to an area hopefully safe from poachers in a bid to cut down on the numbers killed by poachers. Some conservationists believe that the reported numbers of rhinos killed could be much higher than recorded. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell, File)  (The Associated Press)

Poachers have killed record numbers of rhinos in South Africa in recent years, but some conservationists believe the toll could be even higher than the official figures.

South Africa's environment ministry, which reported 1,215 rhino poachings last year, said Wednesday that aerial surveillance and other "concerted efforts" are made to detect carcasses of killed rhinos.

The ministry says procedure requires the dead fetus of a pregnant rhino killed by poachers to be included in poaching statistics, but says "some" may be missed if scavenging animals reach the carcass before investigators.

Allison Thomson, founder of an anti-poaching group, says there are cases included in the official statistics. As an example, Thomson says lions or other predators probably kill some vulnerable rhino calves whose mothers are poached.