South African park reports increase in poacher arrests

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Park rangers in South Africa detained 28 suspected poachers in April in the country's main wildlife park, a sharp increase over the detention rate of previous months, an official said Thursday.

Paul Daphne, a spokesman for South Africa's parks service, attributed the increase in arrests in Kruger National Park to the effectiveness of new anti-poaching helicopters as well as sniffer dogs that track intruders. Kruger rangers have four helicopters, including two donated by American philanthropist Howard Buffett, according to Daphne.

While more poachers are infiltrating Kruger park, the ranger force there is showing a more robust ability to counter the threat, Daphne said.

A total of 62 suspected poachers have been arrested in the Kruger park so far this year, according to parks officials. Many poachers cross into Kruger from neighboring Mozambique.

Poachers killed more than 1,200 rhinos in South Africa, many of them in Kruger, in 2014 to meet demand for rhino horn in parts of Asia.

The horn is made of keratin, a substance also found in human fingernails. Some people covet it as a status symbol and a healing agent despite a lack of evidence that it can cure.

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