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Five die in South African wildlife park helicopter crash

Several air force personnel on routine surveillance of a South African national park have been killed in a helicopter crash. The military is investigating the cause of the fatal accident.

South Africa's military released few details following the incident, which occurred late on Saturday. According to the official statement, five aboard had been killed, but it did not indicate whether there were any possible survivors.

The helicopter crashed for unknown reasons during a scheduled anti-poaching operation in South Africa's Kruger National Park.

"A preliminary investigation is currently under way to establish the sequence of events that led to the fatal crash of the helicopter," said Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga.

Kruger National Park spans 7,576.7 square miles (1,962,362 hectares) in South Africa's northeast corner, running nearly the entire length of its shared border with Mozambique.

In an effort to curb rhinoceros poaching, the unit had been working together with park rangers.

South Africa has been battling a rise in rhinoceros poaching. Since the beginning of 2013, the government has already recorded 188 cases of the illegal killings, which generally supplies the Asian market with the animal's horn, thought by some to have curative properties.

In light of the problem, Vietnam and, more recently, China have both signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the South African government to help curb the problem.

The number of poachings has risen steadily since 2010, going from 333 to 448 within a year and then jumping to 668 reported cases in 2012, according to numbers published on the South African government's official website.

kms/rc (AFP, AP)