135 rhino poached by March 2012

The number of rhinos illegally hunted in South Africa this year stands at 135, the Department of Environmental Affairs says

Spokesman Albi Modise said the Kruger National Park (KNP) with 75 led in the number of rhinos poached followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 18, Limpopo with 17 and the North West province with 15.

In 2011 South Africa lost 448 rhinos to illegal hunting and the unlawful trade in rhino horn.

Modise said the department was nevertheless encouraged by the increased number of arrests and convictions made this year to counter rhino poaching.

Since January this year 89 people have been arrested for illegal activities in rhino horn in the country.

Twenty-nine people were arrested in Mpumalanga, 20 in the KNP, and 15 in the North West province.

In 2011 a total of 232 people were arrested in connection with rhino poaching.

Releasing the latest figures, Modise said the KNP continued to be the biggest victim of rhino killed illegally.

He said a suspected poacher was shot dead in the KNP and two others arrested last week.

A fifth KNP official, stationed at the Pretoriuskop section of the park, had been arrested.

Modise said SANParks, in conjunction with the police, were working non-stop to determine if there were links with other KNP officials to the two rhino killed in Pretoriuskop last month.

The KNP lost 252 rhinos to poaching last year.

Modise urged South Africans to report incidents of rhino poaching.

The public can give tip-offs by calling 0800-205-005.