Soldiers have shot three poachers in the north of the Olifants River in the Kruger National Park.
"The poachers fired on the South African soldiers who then returned fire," says spokeswoman Lieutnant Colonel Marinda Meyer. "An AK47 rifle, one Bruno .458 hunting rifle, two axes and two cell phones were found in their possession."
Anti rhino poaching role
The troops are patrolling the border area within The Kruger Park, as well as in the Mbuzini and Komatipoort areas. The troops are working with the police, South African Revenue Service and other government departments involved in crime-combating operations, the military said. The SANDF contributes and plays a very critical role in the curbing of rhino-poaching as part of their support to SAN Parks along the Kruger National Park which borders the neighbouring countries."
In April SA Army soldiers deployed in the KNP arrested four Mozambican nationals, also for suspected poaching. They were in possession of a hunting rifle, cell phones, binoculars and axe, the Department of Defence said in a statement at the time.
The state BuaNews agency reported in late March that some 165 troops had been deployed to patrol the international border between the park and Mozambique to re-establish state authority and combat poaching. "For the safety of our borderlines and the escalating rhino poaching incidents we have decided to add our troops and divide them so that others will help in the Kruger to [combat] rhino poaching and other cross-border related crimes," said provincial SANDF commander Colonel Nceba Bobelo.
South African National Parks (SANParks) chief executive David Mabunda last month said that 71 rhinos have been killed at SANParks reserves since the beginning of this year, while 333 rhino deaths were recorded last year. Since the beginning of January 2011 159 rhinos have been poached throughout the country, 134 suspects arrested and 17 suspects fatally wounded.
All borders to be patrolled
The SANDF is currently deployed along stretches of the Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho borders At the end of the financial year 2012/13 the SANDF hopes to patrol the entire 4471 kilometres frontier between South Africa and Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, and Lesotho.
Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu overnight warned poachers that the military will return fire with fire in the KNP and other areas along the border. "The SANDF will do anything to protect our national asserts, we will not allow criminals to do as they wish in our parks, we also want to send a very strong message that poachers who shoot at soldiers must know that we will return fire with fire", the minister said.
The minister added that the SANDF and the South African National Parks will cooperate in protecting all national parks. The cooperation will include joint operations, sharing of information and training.
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