Johannesburg - Fifty-seven rhino have been killed for their horns in January alone, the environmental affairs department said on Thursday.

Spokesman Albi Modise said the highest number of rhino killed was recorded in Kruger National Park. Six of the animals were shot and killed in KwaZulu-Natal and another six in North West.

Modise said two rhino were killed for their horns in Limpopo and another one was fatally shot in Mpumalanga. Eighteen suspected rhino poachers have been arrested in connection to the crime.

He said seven rhino horns were recovered along with hunting rifles, ammunition and poaching equipment.

Four rhino poachers were shot and killed during the anti-poaching operations.

“The shootout(s) were either between police and poachers or between rangers and poachers,” said Modise. - Sapa