South African copter crash kills 5 soldiers on rhino patrol
April 1, 2013 -- Updated 0047 GMT (0847 HKT)
- NEW: Zuma expresses condolences to the families of fallen soldiers
- Last week, South Africa lost 13 soldiers in the Central African Republic
- Nearly 200 rhinos have been poached in the nation this year, a majority at Kruger
- Demand for rhinos is surging over unsubstantiated beliefs about their medicinal purposes
(CNN) -- Five South African soldiers died in a helicopter crash while patrolling for rhino poachers in the sprawling Kruger National Park.
All aboard the flight were killed in the crash Saturday night, according to a government spokesman.
The soldiers were conducting Operation Rhino, which aims to combat rampant poaching at the park.
"On behalf of government and the entire nation, we wish to express our sincere condolences to the families of these five soldiers and may their souls rest in peace," President Jacob Zuma said in a statement.
An investigation is under way to determine the cause of the crash.
Conservation group Save the Rhino estimates that there are 25,000 rhinos in Africa. Of those, about 21,000 live in South Africa.
A record number of rhinos were killed in South Africa last year, fueled by the belief that their horns can cure cancer.
The unsubstantiated belief on their healing powers is spreading in southeast Asia, sending clients paying top dollar for the horns.
In an effort to combat poaching, South Africa has cracked down on the illegal trade and teamed up with countries that serve as destinations for the rhino horns.
South Africa signed an agreement with China last week to work together to reduce poaching.
So far this year, 188 rhinos have been poached nationwide, 135 of them at Kruger, according to government numbers released last week.
The crash adds to a grim toll for the South African military.
Last week, it lost 13 soldiers in the Central African Republic capital of Bangui, where they were helping the local military quash a rebel uprising.
CNN's Jennifer Deaton contributed to this report
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
Where do hip young things hang out in Taiwan?
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
Stunning stations where your first priority won't be finding the nearest exit.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with attempting to kill a baby police say spent five days down a drain before being discovered by cyclists.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2106 GMT (0506 HKT)
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1945 GMT (0345 HKT)
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
A Syrian cleric condemns ISIS and its execution of U.S. hostage Peter Kassig.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 1729 GMT (0129 HKT)
TV anchor wears the same suit for a year. Female colleague wears new outfit daily. Who gets criticized?
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 1239 GMT (2039 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.