South Africa's fight against rhino poaching was dealt an early blow in 2013, with three rhinos killed in the Kruger National Park on the first day of the new year.
All three rhinos were shot dead and dehorned on 1 January, according to Kruger National Park managing executive Abe Sibiya.
"In the first incident, two white rhino were shot and killed on the Houtboschrand section of the Kruger National Park," Sibiya said on Wednesday. "Indications are that the two animals were shot on January 1 by a poaching group from Mozambique. Their horns were removed and the group escaped."
He said a hunting rifle and two sets of horns were recovered.
In the second incident, rangers deployed in the Lower Sabie area of the park made contact with a group of three poachers.
"Shots were exchanged and the three managed to escape, but left behind a high calibre hunting rifle and a bag containing a set of rhino horns. In a follow-up operation, the carcass of a white rhino with horns missing was discovered," Sibiya said.
"This is not an ideal way to start the year, but the initiatives that we have put in place, especially the aerial surveillance one, are teaching us a lot and we are making a lot of progress."
No arrests have been made and police investigations are continuing.
According to the South African National Parks statistics, a total of 633 rhinos were killed for their horns in South Africa in 2012. The Kruger National Park lost 395 rhinos to poaching in the same period. The North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo provinces collectively accounted for the loss of 197 rhinos in 2012.