A Kruger National park helicopter was shot at this week by suspected poachers indicating yet another escalation in the ongoing battle to at least curb the slaughter of rhino.
The shooting took place on Wednesday in the southern section of the world-renowned game reserve, a part of the park close to Mozambique and where many rhinos have been killed.
The rotary-winged aircraft, an Airbus Helicopters AS350 Squirrel, was supporting elements of the Police Air Wing and its K9 unit with a detachment of specialist Kruger National Park counter-poaching rangers when the shooting happened.
The helicopter was not hit and touched down safely without any damage or harm to the aircrew.
As far as can be ascertained this is the first time suspected poachers have shot at an aircraft in the park.
Follow-up operations on the ground saw four suspected poachers arrested and three firearms, ammunition and “poaching equipment” recovered.
In the first four months of this year 363 rhinos have been killed by poachers, with Kruger taking the biggest hit of 232, as is the norm. Statistics released by the Department of Environmental Affairs show incursions by suspected poachers into Kruger for the same period are up by 28% on last year’s figures.