South Africa has lost 199 rhinos to poaching since the beginning of 2012, the department of environmental affairs said on Monday.
“Latest statistics indicate that the Kruger National Park is still the most targeted by poachers with the park having lost a total of 119 rhinos from the beginning of this year,” department spokesman Albi Modise said.
In a statement, he said the targeted provinces included Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West and KwaZulu-Natal, which collectively accounted for 73 killed rhinos.
Thus far, 122 arrests had been made of which 108 were poachers and 14 were either couriers or buyers.
South Africans were urged to report incidents of rhino poaching or any tip-offs that could lead to arrest and prevention of illegal killing to 0800-205-005.
According to the department, in 2010 there were 146 rhinos poached in the Kruger National Park and a total of 333 nationally.
In 2011, there were 252 rhinos poached in the Kruger National Park and 448 nationally.
On Saturday morning, a policeman and a game ranger were both shot and killed in the park.
The policeman, accompanied by a soldier, was searching for rhino poachers in the park's southern Tshokwane section at 9am when they came under fire, police spokesman Colonel Vishnu Naidoo said on Sunday.
“The shooting resulted in the (SA Police Service) member being shot and killed. In return, the defence force member fatally wounded the shooter,” said Naidoo.
“It emerged later that the shooter was in fact an on-duty (SA National Parks) game ranger.”
An inquest docket had been opened to determine the circumstances and cause of the incident.
According to reports, on Monday Kruger National Park spokesman William Mabasa said that since the start of 2011 there had been 25 shoot-outs in the park.
Beeld quoted a source as saying that since the anti-poaching campaign was stepped-up the park had turned into a “war zone”.
It reported that throwing various groups together in the fight against poaching caused mutual distrust.
The newspaper also reported the source as saying that rangers were specifically trained to track poachers, whereas police and soldiers were not.
On Monday, Naidoo said there were no new developments in the investigation into the past weekend's shooting.
He also felt the article was distorted.
He did not want to elaborate, but said the inquest into the shooting would take time and any comment now would be purely speculative.
When contacted, Mabasa said he would comment later this week. - Sapa