Three rhino poachers shot dead in Kruger: S.African military

20th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Three rhino poachers have been shot dead by soldiers patrolling South Africa's famed Kruger National Park, defense minister Lindiwe Sisulu said Friday.

The three poachers fired on a military border patrol in the park at around 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) Wednesday, but were killed when soldiers fired back, the military said in a statement.

An AK47 rifle, one Bruno .458 hunting rifle, two axes and two cell phones were found on the men, the military said.

"The (military) will do anything to protect our national assets. We will not allow criminals to do as they wish in our parks," Sisulu said.

"We also want to send a very strong message that poachers who shoot at soldiers must know that we will return fire with fire," she added.

The military began patrolling in Kruger in April, as part of a general shift of border patrols from the police to soldiers, but also to combat a surge in rhino poaching.

In South Africa, poaching has risen year by year, from 13 cases in 2007, to 33 in 2008, to 122 in 2009, to 333 last year -- an increase fuelled by the use of rhino horns in Asian traditional medicine.

Around 21,000 rhinos, both black and white, remain in South Africa, home to 70 percent of the world's rhino population.

© 2011 AFP

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