November 21, 2014 12:34 pm

WATCH: Park rangers tranquilize, transport endangered Rhino to wildlife reserve

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ABOVE: Get a first-hand look at a mission to tranquilize and transport an endangered rhino into a nature preserve

South Africa’s flagship wildlife reserve continued work on an intensive protection zone (IPZ) for rhinos, as the country announced on Thursday that 1,020 rhinos have been poached so far this year.

The total number of poached rhinos in 2014 already exceeds the record of 1,004 in 2013.

The plan at Kruger National Park is to create a stronghold in the reserve to defend rhinos from the growing threat of poachers.

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Kruger will focus aircraft, ranger teams and high-tech surveillance on the zone.

About two-thirds of the rhinos poached this year died in Kruger park.

Poachers often dodge an overstretched force of 400 rangers as well as some military units that monitor the 350 kilometre (220 mile) border between Kruger and Mozambique.

They shoot rhinos just before sunset and go back to Mozambique under cover of night, according to rangers.

The intensive protection zone in Kruger encompasses about 5,000 square kilometres (3,100 square miles), or at least one-quarter of the park, and is already home to many of Kruger’s roughly 10,000 rhinos, or half the national population.

Rhinos were reintroduced in southern Kruger in the 1960s after poachers had wiped them out.

The intensive protection zone initiative is partly funded by American philanthropist Howard Buffett, a son of investor Warren Buffett who pledged nearly 24 million US dollars to Kruger’s anti-poaching efforts.

© 2014 The Associated Press

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