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US Interior Secretary Condemns Poaching in South Africa

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell talks with investigators near the carcass of a poached rhino in Kruger National Park, South Africa’s biggest wildlife reserve, Jan. 29, 2016.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell visited Kruger National Park in South Africa this week as part of a trip to encourage international cooperation to combat wildlife trafficking. Jewell also visited a crime scene where a rhino was killed by poachers and stopped at the park's command center for anti-poaching operations.

Secretary Jewell kicked off her tour of Kruger National Park on Friday by holding a closed door meeting with her South African counterpart, Minister of Water and Environment Edna Molewa.

When Jewell emerged from the meeting, she expressed confidence on the measures being taken by South Africa to combat poaching.

The two ministers were then taken to a crime scene where a white bull rhino was brutally killed by poachers for its horn.

A visibly shaken Jewell expressed great disappointment and called for a united effort to fight poaching.

“Eliminating the trade of ivory in China as we are doing in the United States is a step in that direction and political will is really important and leadership from the top is really important, but also grassroots support to change minds, to change habits,” she said.

Her South African counterpart pleaded with those involved in illicit rhino trade to stop the brutality.

“The rhino horn does not cure whatever people say it cures, so it is important that we don’t continue to believe in that myth," said Molewa. "So let’s stop killing our rhino.”

Forensic experts were also on the scene to gather evidence that could help prosecute the suspects once they are caught.

South Africa is already using high-tech equipment to fight poaching, thanks to the United States for donations in cash and kind.

At the Park’s Joint Operations Center, fitted with a well-equipped two-way radio control room, Jewell was shown helicopters being used in the fight against poaching. She donated night vision goggles to help rangers spot poachers at night.

In 2015, the park experienced a 27 percent increase in rhino poaching incidents; however, the number of rhinos killed decreased when compared to that of 2014.

South Africa has the world's largest rhino population. The Kruger National Park alone is home to more than 9,000 white rhinos.

Secretary Jewell will conclude her tour of the park on Saturday before returning to the U.S.