South African game rangers have killed three poachers this past week in shootouts in the vast Kruger National Park bordering Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Two thirds of the 1020 rhino illegally killed this year for their horns have died in this eastern park which is the size of Israel.
Rhino poaching in South Africa has reached record levels this year –triple the number of three years ago.
The animals are killed for their horn which is shipped mainly to Asia where gram for gram it is more valuable than platinum.
Made of keratin – the same substance as human finger nails – the horns are misguidedly believed to have medicinal properties.
South African authorities are cracking down on poaching which is killing rhinos faster than they can breed.
Some 164 suspected poachers have been arrested in Kruger Park in 2014, about 30 more than last year,
Rangers say the activity usually spikes midsummer when the foliage is at its thickest and rain covers poachers’ tracks.
They grimly refer to it has the Christmas rush for poachers.
They have increased patrols in the park and are moving the animals further away from the Mozambique border which many of the poachers cross.
The national parks service says the alleged poachers were killed in a series of shootouts.
Three others were wounded and arrested and six escaped.