Two suspected rhino poachers were shot and killed earlier this week after they opened fire on rangers in the Kruger National Park in South Africa, Reuters reported.
“The rangers were on patrol when they came across a trio of armed men who started shooting,” said William Mabasa, Kruger spokesperson.
“There was a shootout and two of the three suspected poachers were fatally wounded,” Mabasa told AFP.
The third suspect escaped, and Mabasa noted that the two men killed were carrying equipment frequently used in rhino poaching, including an ax used to cut off horns.
While killing rhinos is illegal, poachers killed a record number of rhinos last year – 1,020 in South Africa alone. The demand for rhino horn is so high in countries like Vietnam and China where it used in traditional medicine that conservationists estimate that it sells for about $65,000 a kilogram.
The poaching problem in South Africa has reached such levels that the country has launched initiatives to combat the threat, including using helicopters, armed guards with sniffer dogs, and deploying the army to the border of Mozambique,“a poaching hotspot,” according to The Guardian.
“Unfortunately the threat of poaching has continued to escalate while various multi-faceted interventions are being implemented by South Africa, said the country’s minister of environmental affairs, Edna Molewa. “We are concerned that poaching is part of a multi-billion dollar worldwide illicit wildlife trade. Addressing the scourge is not simple.”
Despite the fact that 2014 saw a record number of rhinos killed, the number poachers arrested did increase for the fourth year in a row. By Dec. 10 of last year, there had been 367 poaching arrests in South Africa, which is more than double the 165 arrests in 2010.
The rhino population is in serious trouble, and serious measures need to be taken globally — not just in Africa — to stop the slaughter.