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South Africa: Kruger park rangers kill suspected rhino poacher

Rangers at Kruger National Park shot dead a suspected rhino poacher and injured two others in gun battle, police said.

rhino poaching kruger park 2012 02 29Enlarge
White rhinos at the Kruger National Park, South Africa. There has been a massive surge in the number of rhinos being killed by poachers in South Africa, blamed on crime syndicates that sell the horns to buyers in Vietnam and China. (Erin Conway-Smith/GlobalPost)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Rangers at Kruger National Park killed a suspected rhino poacher and injured two others in a gun battle at the park, according to police.

The rangers noticed four men crossing a river inside Kruger park, a famous safari destination in South Africa and the epicenter of the country's rhino poaching crisis, and ordered them to stop, McIntosh Polela, a spokesman for the priority crime investigation unit, said in a statement yesterday.

"The men allegedly shot at the rangers who then returned fire,” the statement said.

It was not clear where in Kruger park the incident took place.

More from GlobalPost: Will Africa's rhinos become extinct in our lifetime? 

One of the suspected poachers died immediately, while the two injured men were taken to hospital with gunshot wounds. The fourth man was arrested on charges related to rhino poaching and shooting at the rangers, and is to appear in court.

Park rangers confiscated a rifle and several knives, said to be used for hacking off rhino horns.

“The arrested man has already admitted to the killing of three rhinos that were killed in the park last week,” Polela said.

Record numbers of South Africa's rhinos have been killed for their horns in recent years. The poaching is fueled by demand for the horns in Vietnam and China, for use in "traditional medicine."

The horns are thought to cure cancer, as well as headaches and hangovers, but Western experts say they have no medicinal value.

More from GlobalPost: Hunters shoot and pay to save the rhino

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/south-africa/120307/rhino-poaching-kruger-park-suspected-poacher-killed