A military helicopter has been donated to the Kruger National Park to boost the battle against poaching, SANParks said on Wednesday.
It said the Gazelle helicopter - previously in service in the French and British militaries - would widen the area that could be protected in South Africa's largest game reserve.
It would be based in Phalaborwa and be used in SANParks anti-poaching operations in the north of the park.
The Gazelle had a maximum airspeed of 310km/h, a range of 670km, and a service ceiling of 5000 metres.
It was donated by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation in association with Paramount, a leading African aerospace and defence group.
Foundation chairman Ivor Ichikowitz said: “The Gazelle will strengthen SANParks's existing forces and bring this element to the Kruger National Park.”
The foundation previously donated a Seeker MKII Surveillance aeroplane, which had been operating in the Kruger since December 2012.
The foundation would provide fuel for the Gazelle and Seeker plane, as well as specialised training for the pilots.
“With the Gazelle now part of the SANParks anti-poaching operations we hope that the fight for the rhino will reach a tipping point in 2014,” Ichikowitz said.
SANParks CEO David Mabunda said: “We will not stand by and watch our rhino being slaughtered, and are sick and tired of unscrupulous criminals taking advantage of our natural heritage.”
The Kruger National Park is home to between 8400 and 9600 white rhino.
“We are certain that without intense anti-poaching operations, the Kruger's rhino population would have begun significantly declining by now,” said Mabunda.