Workers at a South African wildlife park have said they are "devastated" after "ruthless" poachers killed two rhinos for their horns and left another fighting for his life. Two white rhino cows were found dead, while a bull named Bingo suffered serious injuries after his horn was sawed off, leaving two young calves orphaned.
Sibuya Game Reserve released shocking photos showing the aftermath of the attack. In a Facebook post, reserve owner Nick Fox said he was on patrol with an anti-poaching security unit when he discovered the rhino carcasses early on Thursday (24 March) morning.
He described how police and vets had been working round the clock to save the surviving rhino while authorities are investigating the crime over two "shocking" days. He called for more stringent efforts to combat the poachers.
He wrote: "These poachers are professional highly resourced syndicates and if there is a genuine desire to stop this scourge we need a better and more specialized rhino unit."
Wildlife vet Dr William Fowlds said Bingo was "fighting for his life" with facial injuries and serious internal leg injuries, while the two calves had been moved to Shamwari Game Reserve's rhino rehabilitation enclosure, where specialist vets are caring for them.
In an emotional Facebook post one of the workers named Justin described it as the "worst day of my life."
"I can't begin to tell you how I feel," he wrote. "This is the worst day of my life. these animals were our family, something special we wanted to show the world. A part of our hearts has been ripped out.. Thank you all for the support. We are trying our absolute best to catch these ruthless people. Justin"
The number of rhinoceros killed by poachers in Africa rose for the sixth straight year to the highest recorded during the current poaching crisis, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says. There were at least 1,338 rhinos killed across the continent for their horn in 2015, bringing the total number of the animals killed since 2008 to almost 6,000.
There are about 20,000 southern white rhinos left in the world, most in South Africa
Members of the public have reacted with shock on Twitter at the brutal killings of the rhinos.