Rock Center producer Meghan Frank takes viewers behind-the-scenes to South Africa where NBC News crews and producers spent two weeks face to face with rhinos.
With rhino horns fetching more than gold ounce per ounce, it's not surprising that poaching has escalated. But South Africa's national park service reported Wednesday that it was shocked when it had to arrest four of its own on suspicion of killing rhinos and selling their horns to criminal syndicates.
"The unscrupulous and revolting hands of the poaching syndicates have stretched as far as to taint the hands of those trusted with the great responsibility of being guardians of our natural heritage," South Africa National Parks chief David Mabunda said in a statement.
The men were stationed at Kruger National Park, which at 7,500 square miles is nearly the size of New Jersey. They were arrested Tuesday after two more rhinos were found dead and their horns cut off.
Home to more than 90 percent of the continent's rhinos, South Africa is on the front line of a worsening war with poachers who send the horns to China and Southeast Asia for use in traditional medicine.
South Africa has sent troops to Kruger Park, but the poaching continues.
Poachers killed a record 448 rhinos in South Africa last year and have already killed 80 this year -- setting a pace for a new annual record. Kruger has seen 43 rhinos killed so far this year.
A decade ago South Africa had more than 20,000 rhinos and was losing about 15 a year to poachers.
But poaching has increased dramatically in the last few years as the spread of wealth in places like Vietnam and Thailand has enabled more people to buy powdered rhino horn, a prized ingredient in traditional medicine, though it has no proved benefits.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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