Two poachers have been killed during coordinated raids by armed rangers in Kruger National Park in South Africa.
Two sets of freshly harvested rhino horn were seized during the 72-hour operation, but rangers have yet to locate the dead or dying animals slaughtered for their ivory.
Ten arrests were made, including a serving police officer from the park’s own station, after three separate gangs successfully were tracked over the weekend.
One poacher, who was shot and badly injured, remained in hospital under armed guard and the rest will appear in court this week.
Isaac Phaahla, the spokesman for the park, said that the arrests were “a great breakthrough in the relentless war.”
“Our patrols risk their lives every day as they battle with the poachers who just keep coming back and back,” he said. “The war is relentless, the task is huge, nonstop and dangerous. The poachers are heavily armed, determined and absolutely ruthless.”
Phaahla said that discovering one of the park’s police officers was among those arrested was heartbreaking. “It’s terrible when you are betrayed by one of your own,” he said.
Poachers were tracked for 10 hours by rangers on foot, in helicopters and an aircraft before a canine unit caught them, Phaahla said. The gang had crossed from Mozambique, one of the world’s poorest countries, which shares a 210 mile-long border with the park.
More than 500 mostly young Mozambicans have been killed by anti-poaching units over the past five years. Rangers are allowed to shoot at trespassers if they are threatened with lethal force.