PRETORIA– A South African National Parks (SANParks) field ranger was on Thursday fatally shot while tracking poachers in the Kruger National Park.

According to reports, the field ranger and his colleagues made contact with a poaching group that they had been tracking, supported by the K9 unit.

It appears as they approached the group, shots were exchanged, seriously injuring him in the upper body. A doctor was flown in to stabilise him but unfortunately he succumbed to his injuries en route to the hospital, SANParks said in a statement.

Reacting to the news, the CEO of SANParks, Fundisile Mketeni, expressed his heartfelt condolences to the ranger’s family, colleagues and associates.

We would like to express our sincerest condolences to his immediate family, colleagues and associates. Our prayers are with them during this difficult period. It is never easy to cope with losing a loved one, especially in this manner.

We have lost a patriot who died on duty protecting South African assets and who was well trained to defend himself, hence our shock on learning of this incident.

We will draw strength from his contribution to the anti-poaching campaign and as his colleagues, we are going to continue where he left off in honour of his memory. Our immediate concern now is to support the family with their needs and counselling. We are extremely saddened by this incident, Mketeni said.

The police are busy with further investigations.

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has condemned the killing of a Kruger National Park ranger by alleged rhino poachers.

My condolences go out to our departed ranger’s colleagues, his family and friends. His death at the hands of alleged rhino poachers is an indication of the severity of the threat our rangers are faced with a daily basis, Molewa said in a statement on Friday.

As we approach the commemoration of World Ranger Day on July 31, I would like to pay a special tribute to our departed ranger for dedicating his life to the protection of the rhino and all other species in the Kruger National Park.

It is only through the efforts of our brave men and women on the frontline, that our many species such as the elephant, rhino and lion are conserved in the wild, the Minister said.