THREE men were shot dead after a pre-dawn shoot-out with game rangers at a rhino park in Chiredzi, officials said.
The trio, believed to be poachers, were in a group of six when they were surprised by game rangers who had advance warning of their arrival, the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said.
The alleged poachers, who were travelling in two cars, are said to have shot at the rangers after refusing to surrender, triggering a shoot-out.
The well-prepared rangers killed three men and arrested two others while a third escaped in a Toyota Corolla.
A 306 rifle fitted with a silencer, 18 rounds of ammunition, two knives and two bags were among the items recovered. A vehicle was also impounded.
Parks spokeswoman Caroline Washaya-Moyo named the dead men as Sakhile Ncube, Nicholas Tswami and Million Chauke – all from Beitbridge.
Washaya-Moyo said rangers at Chipangayi Safari Area were tipped off about poachers planning to kill rhino on the park.
Washaya-Moyo told the Herald: "Information was received by officers based at Buffalo Range Airport, working with a reliable informer that an organised armed poaching group wanted to enter Chipangayi Safari area for the purposes of poaching rhinos.
“This information was communicated to Chipangayi and they were ready when the poachers got there.”
Zimbabwean courts have handed out stiff sentences on poachers in recent months. Poachers have killed at least 14 rhino in Zimbabwe's nature reserves so far this year, principally for their horn, which is believed to have magical, cancer-curing properties in some Eastern countries.