S.Africa game ranger killed in friendly fire incident

13th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

A game ranger has died after being mistakenly shot by his colleagues while chasing suspected rhino poachers in South Africa's Umfolozi Game Reserve, a report said Tuesday.

Zephaniah Myeni, 39, was in one of two teams of rangers tracking a group of suspected poachers in the eastern wildlife park Saturday when the patrols came across each other and opened fire, The Times newspaper reported.

"Convinced that they were being attacked, the groups continued shooting at each other and Myeni was killed," provincial wildlife spokeswoman Maureen Zimu said.

She said wildlife officials have launched an internal investigation into the incident.

South Africa has seen a sharp rise in rhino poaching, driven by booming demand for rhino horn in Asia -- where it is believed to have medicinal properties and is used to treat a range of ailments from fever to cancer.

The country lost 333 rhinos to poaching last year, up from 13 in 2007, and has lost more than 275 so far this year, with rhino horn currently fetching an estimated $50,000 (37,000 euros) a kilogramme on the black market.

In response, the government has increasingly militarised its anti-poaching efforts, sending the army into the country's largest wildlife reserve, Kruger National Park, and stepping up the provision of military equipment to game rangers.

© 2011 AFP

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