South Africa's parks service says three of its employees were arrested in connection with rhino poaching in the country's flagship wildlife reserve.

The South African National Parks service said Monday that the three suspects were found with a hunting rifle and ammunition in the Lower Sabie area of Kruger National Park.

Abe Sibiya, the agency's acting chief executive officer, says Sunday's arrests came after a recently killed rhino was found in the area. Sibiya says in a statement that it is unfortunate that some of those entrusted with the protection of rhinos have allegedly become a threat to their existence.

Rhino poaching has escalated in recent years because of rising demand for rhino horn in some parts of Asia, including China and Vietnam.