Skukuza — South Africa's fight against rhino poaching has been dealt a blow, with three rhinos already killed in the Kruger National Park since the beginning of the year.
All three rhinos were shot dead and dehorned on January 1, according to Kruger managing executive Abe Sibiya.
"In the first incident, two white rhino were shot and killed on the Houtboschrand section of the Kruger National Park. 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," Sibiya said on Wednesday.
He said a hunting rifle and two sets of horns were recovered.
In the second incident, rangers deployed in the Lower Sabie area 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," said Sibiya.
"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 2012. The Kruger 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.