JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Two suspected rhino poachers were shot dead on Monday after they opened fire on rangers in South Africa's Kruger National Park, a park spokesman said.
Poachers killed a record number of rhinos in 2014 for their horns, which are coveted as an ingredient in traditional medicine in Vietnam and China.
"The rangers were on patrol when they came across a trio of armed men who started shooting," Kruger spokesman William Mabasa said.
Two of the men were killed while a third escaped. They had equipment on them used in rhino poaching, including an ax which would be used for cutting off the horns, Mabasa said.
The clash took place in the far south of the vast park, which is the size of Israel.
Government figures for 2014 show that by mid-November, 1,020 of the animals had been poached in South Africa, topping the previous record of 1,004 from 2013. Rhino horn fetches $65,000 a kg, according to conservationists.
(Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Angus MacSwan)