203 rhinos mowed down this year
A rhino cow was left to bleed to death in the Kruger National Park on Sunday after she was brutally mutilated by poachers who hacked off her horn.
This was just a day after an SA Air Force helicopter crashed in the park, claiming the lives of the pilots and three special forces soldiers on board.
Releasing the latest update on the number of rhinos poached, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said yesterday the cow had to be put down.
"The animal was bleeding profusely and had to be euthanised," said Molewa.
By yesterday, 203 rhino had been killed in poaching incidents across the country this year; 145 were killed in Kruger National Park, with 18 being killed in North West, 17 in KwaZulu-Natal and 13 and 10 in Limpopo and Mpumalanga respectively.
A total of 60 suspected poachers have been arrested, 36 of them in the Kruger National Park.
After hearing two gunshots in the park on Sunday, Molewa said SANParks rangers responded with the support of a SANParks helicopter to hunt for suspected poachers.
"During a brief contact, one armed suspected poacher was arrested.
"A .375 rifle and silencer were recovered. A badlymutilated rhino cow was found alive close to the scene of the contact," she said.
Over the past two long weekends, poaching attempts escalated in the park, with rangers noting at least 56 incursions into the park, said retired South African National Defence Force general Johan Jooste, who is in control of all anti-poaching operations in the park.
Poachers and anti-poaching personnel exchanged fire in six separate incidents, leading to the one poacher being killed, while another poacher allegedly committed suicide.
Private game reserve Sabi Sand has launched a large-scale operation to infuse its rhino horns with a non-lethal pink dye, which is designed to "sicken" anyone who tries to use the horn as a "traditional medicine".
The dye also shows up on airport scanners, alerting authorities to the presence of the horn.