Three workers of South Africa National Parks, or SANParks, were arrested Sunday on suspicion of poaching rhinos in Kruger National Park, the agency said Monday. The three people arrested reportedly include a ranger and two employees.
The three suspects were found with a hunting rifle, ammunition, a vehicle and poaching equipment during the arrest, SANParks said, in a statement. The agency also said that the arrest came after a rhino was found dead in the area.
"These are the people that we entrusted with the welfare of these animals," Reynold Thakhuli, a spokesman for the park service said, according to The Associated Press. "These are just elements that unfortunately have allowed themselves to be used by syndicates."
Thakhuli reportedly said that the arrests were made after an anti-poaching intelligence operation was carried out by the park employees and local police.
“The SANParks and SAPS officials who effected the arrests are congratulated for their outstanding work. These arrests send a strong message that officials alleged to be involved in poaching will be arrested and face the full might of the law,” Abe Sibiya, the agency's acting CEO, said in a statement.
"It is unfortunate that those trusted with the well-being of these animals are alleged to have become the destroyers of the same heritage that they have a mandate to protect.”
According to AP, conservationists believe that the resources used to protect Kruger's wildlife are inadequate.
Kruger National Park is located in the northeastern part of South Africa and is spread across nearly 8,000 square miles. South Africa, which is home to more than 80 percent of the world’s white and black rhinos, is struggling to protect the animals from poachers as demand for rhino horns -- mostly in parts of Asia, including China and Vietnam -- is reportedly increasing.