Five rhino poachers shot dead in South Africa

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

JOHANNESBURG - Five rhino poachers have been shot dead and seven arrested in two South African game parks since the weekend, officials said Wednesday.

The deaths occurred in the renowned Kruger Park, the country’s largest game reserve and one of Africa’s biggest.

Three poachers were killed in a shootout with rangers in a southern area, while another two were shot near its border with Mozambique, South African National Parks spokesman Reynold Thakhuli told DPA. Two more fled across the border.

Seven people linked to rhino poaching were also arrested at the Shingalana Lion and Rhino Game Reserve, co-owner Jaco Pfister said.

Four rhinos valued at 2.4 million rand ($351,000) had been killed for their horns between October and December at the game park, located about 150 km west of Johannesburg.

South Africans have watched in horror as three decades of painstaking work to rebuild the country’s rhino population has recently been jeopardized by a spike in poaching driven by demand in Asia for rhino horn.

Despite having no proven medicinal value, the horn is widely used in traditional medicine in China, Vietnam and other countries.

Authorities have now intensified their efforts to clamp down on poachers, enlisting the help of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

“The inclusion of the SANDF with their state-of-the-art surveillance equipment will add much-needed impetus to the fight against rhino poaching and other forms of poaching,” Thakhuli said.

Across South Africa, 333 rhinos were killed and de-horned in 2010, while 162 people linked to poaching were arrested, according to Thakhuli. He also noted that 10 poachers have been killed in the Kruger Park over the past five months alone.

So far this year, poachers have killed five South African rhinos.

Nearly 90 percent of Africa’s 23,000 rhinos are in South Africa.

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