Evil rhino hunters who slaughtered six beasts in a single day and tried to kill dozens more are SHOT DEAD by rangers

AN evil poaching gang believed to be behind the slaughter of six rhinos in a single day has been smashed.

The suspected poachers were busted after being ambushed and outgunned in a huge offensive against villains who hunt the endangered animals for their horns.

The anti-operation has been taking place over the weekend in South Africa where gangs have been devastating wild rhino populations.

So far this year 142 of the animals have been killed in Kwazulu-Natal alone with a confirmed death toll of over 20 at the weekend.

Last weekend six rhinos were killed at just one park in less than 24 bloody hours.

Ezmevelo KZN Wildlife field rangers had been hunting the culprits and on Saturday night arrested three heavily armed men outside the park in an armed swoop.

They were caught red handed with a high calibre hunting rifle, a silencer, ammunition and an axe and intelligence gained from the arrests is believed to have led to the shootout on Sunday morning.

The arrested men aged 44, 28 and 24 were interrogated in the bush and then taken to the police station and have been charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition.



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The white rhinos are being wiped out by poachers for their hornsCredit: AP:Associated Press

The Ezemvelo field rangers then hours after the arrests ambushed five more poachers in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi game park at 3.30am while patrolling the Nqolothi section when they heard voices.

The turned on their flashlights and ordered the poachers to lay down their weapons.

But when the gang aimed their weapons at them, the rangers opened fire at close range killing two instantly.

Three poachers are currently being hunted in the dense bush with tracker dogs and a helicopter.

Ezemvelo spokesman Musa Mntambo told News 24: "Our rangers observed a group of five poachers and turned on their flashlights simultaneously ordering the poachers to lay down their weapons.

“One poacher pointed a gun towards the field rangers but he was outgunned.  The rangers fired first and two poachers were fatally wounded and a rifle was recovered.  Three managed to escape in the shootout".

It is understood the dead suspects were from the Melmoth area of KZN and investigators are linking them to the evidence from last Sunday’s massacre of six rhinos at the same nature reserve.

Mntambo said: "This syndicate is known to the police and Ezemvelo authorities."

Why are South Africa’s rhinos being hunted?

There are only 20,000 white rhino left in South Africa with 1,000 slaughtered every year.

Gangs are increasingly becoming heavily armed to reap rich financial rewards in return for the rhino horn.

The Kruger National Park was previously the main target of poachers but heightened security and initiatives and multiple arrests have driven them to try softer targets.

White rhinos are the second largest land mammal in the world after the elephant and a kilo of horn is worth £23,000 – making it more valuable than a kilo of gold at £19,000.

The horn is made from a protein called keratin which is the same substance finger nails and hair are made from.

Rhinos can weigh up to 2.5 tons and can be 6 feet tall and run at up to 30mph.

Since 2007 more than 6,000 rhinos have been shot and butchered for their horns in South Africa with the majority in the last four years, with the butcher's board recording 1,000 a year at present.

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