The South African government has arrested more than 280 poachers as it steps up the protection of the endangered rhino this year, authorities announced Monday.
The arrests were part of the crackdown by the park rangers, armed forces, police and other related parties, according to the Department of Environmental Affairs.
"Without the input from various enforcement agencies, the picture would have been much worse," department spokesperson Albi Modise said in a statement.
Up to 860 rhinos have been illegally killed in South Africa this year. The largest reserve Kruger National Park bordering Mozambique has suffered the highest losses of 500.
In 2012, a record 668 rhinos were slaughtered in South Africa, compared with 333 in 2010 and 448 in 2011.
"Were it not for these men and women working at the coalface of rhino poaching in South Africa, many more of these iconic animals will have been poached this year," Modise said.
The rising demand for illegal rhino horn from the Asian black market as a valuable medical source is viewed as an important driver behind the rampant rhino poaching in South Africa.
South Africa is home to the world's largest rhino population of about 25,000, accounting for nearly 80 percent of the total.
The rhino poaching has cost South Africa 1.1 billion rands (about 100 million U. S.dollars) since 2008.