JOHANNESBURG - Rangers on patrol at South Africa's famed Kruger National Park killed two suspected rhino poachers on Monday during a dawn exchange of gunfire, a parks official said.
"There was a shootout and two of the three suspected poachers were fatally wounded," South African National Parks spokesman William Mabasa told AFP.
The third suspect escaped during the incident which took place around 5am (0300 GMT) in the vast park roughly the size of Wales.
South Africa is battling a rhino poaching crisis, with over 1,000 animals slaughtered for their horns in 2014, around 700 of them in the Kruger National Park.
According to the last statistics released by the government, 1,020 rhino had been killed in the country by November 20 last year - already a record-high even without December's numbers included.
The preceding year saw 1,004 beasts poached across the country.
The killings have prompted the government to adopt a plan to evacuate the animals from Kruger to safety zones, including neighbouring countries.
Demand for rhinoceros horn - which is made of keratin, also found in hair and nails - has skyrocketed in recent years, largely driven by the market in Asia, where the powdered horn is valued for its purported medicinal properties.