, JOHANNESBURG, Jan 23 – Poachers have killed 14 rhinos in South Africa this year, the national parks authority said Friday, announcing military patrols in the world-famous Kruger National Park.
"These poachers are members of well-resourced syndicates and are also involved in chilling crimes like human trafficking, arms smuggling, prostitution and drug trafficking," said David Mabunda, chief of the South African National Parks (SANParks) in a statement.
"They are dangerous criminals."
Rhino poaching has intensified in South Africa with 14 slaughtered — seven in Kruger and seven in the North West province — in the first two weeks of January. Last year, 122 were killed nationwide.
SANParks said plans were on for soldiers to patrol the borders of Kruger and to camp in specific areas. Kruger shares about 450 kilometres (280 miles) of international borders with Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
"The military will be primarily going to patrol that," spokeswoman Wanda Mukutshulwa told AFP, referring to the border areas with Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Patrols within the park, which is half the size of the Netherlands, would be ad-hoc, she added.
Rhinos are usually shot by poachers for their horn which is sold for medicinal or ornamental use at huge profits.
Authorities have arrested 46 people since 2008 with two arrests so far this year in Kruger, where 50 rhinos were killed last year.
South Africa is a well-known wildlife destination and home to Africa\’s big five animals — lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo.