Three Rhino Poachers Shot Dead In South Africa

Three rhino poachers were shot dead Wednesday evening in a firefight at Kruger National Park, South Africa’s premier national park. Captain Paul Ramaloko told South African news media that the game rangers heard a shot ring out, which drew them to the scene, where they became embroiled in the gun battle with three twentysomething men from Mozambique.

None of the rangers was hurt in the exchange. A rifle and ammunition was recovered. However, if a rhino was hurt, it has not yet been located.

A Kruger park official, William Mabasa, confirmed the dramatic story to Reuters reporter Ed Stoddard on Thursday. Stoddard was told that poor villagers from Mozambique are lured into the dangerous job of poaching rhinos by organized crime syndicates, which also provide the weapons.

South Africa in general, and Kruger Park in particular, are being targeted by the poachers for the horns of African rhinoceros species, which can now be powdered and sold for as much as $30,000 a pound. Once a traditional (if worthless) ingredient in Chinese medicine, it is now being purchased by Asian investors, a vicious cycle where the ever-increasing price makes it even more attractive to speculators.

All species of rhinoceros are under seige, raising the fears that they will actually be driven to extinction. The demand is so huge that unscrupulous thieves have even sawed the horns off decades-old museum specimens.

Sadly, the latest gun battle came the very same day that South African and Chinese officials had announced a new cooperative effort between the two governments to work together to combat the growing predation on South Africa’s rhinos by criminal syndicates marketing the rhino horn to Chinese and Vietnamese buyers.

South Africa is home to over 90 percent of Africa’s remaining white rhinos, a lure the rhino poachers haven’t been able to resist.

[baby rhino photo courtesy Valentina Storti and Wikipedia Commons]

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