South African soldiers are patrolling the world famous Kruger National Park on the borders with Mozambique to stamp out rhino poaching, the defence minister said Wednesday.
“As of April 1 this year, we are deployed around the border area that would cover the Kruger Park and we are in a position now to assist them them with the plight that has been bedeviling them for a very long time which is rhino poaching,” minister Lindiwe Sisulu told a press briefing.
South African National Parks asked the military to step in to help stop the ongoing rhino bloodbath in the giant park which lost 146 animals last year.
“We have deployed a company there and we will be able to deal with the problem of poaching effectively,” said acting defence force chief General Temba Matanzima.
The soldiers have not yet clashed with poachers who had killed 46 rhinos in Kruger park this year out of a countrywide total of 71 by last month.
Home to more than 70 percent of the world’s remaining rhinos, South Africa lost 333 rhinos last year and the surge — fuelled by use of rhino horn in Asian traditional medicine — has been blamed on organised syndicates.
The operation in Kruger is part of a move to give the army, rather than police, responsibility for border patrols.