Elephant Kills Suspected Poacher in Renowned South African Park

A suspected poacher was probably trampled to death by an elephant in South Africa's renowned Kruger National Park (KNP), according to officials.

A park spokesperson said in a statement on Friday that rangers had found the body of a suspected poacher on Thursday in an "intelligence driven operation" in Kruger's Stolsnek area.

Rangers found the body after following tracks on the ground, the spokesperson said.

Officials said it appears that the individual was killed by an elephant and left behind by his accomplices.

"No animal was killed in the immediate vicinity," the spokesperson, Isaac Phaahla, said. "KNP Management continues to warn poachers that it is dangerous to hunt illegally in the KNP. Criminals stand to lose their lives and freedom."

Phaahla said the search for the suspected poacher had begun after rangers received a call on their emergency number about a body in the park, South African media outlet News24 reported.

The individual who made the call didn't provide authorities with the exact location of the body, but did give several clues.

"Nothing was found except that body. We believe that he was trampled by elephants due to the nature of the injuries he sustained," Phaahla said, according to News24.

"We had a similar incident last year where a man, a suspected poacher, was eaten by lions and only his skull was found."

Rangers did not find a gun or any other weapon near the body, but the spokesperson said authorities believed the deceased man was a poacher because he was found in one of the park's restricted areas

Phaahla also said officials think that the individual who made the call to notify authorities of the man's death may have actually been an accomplice of the suspected poacher. The potential accomplice might have called because they wanted the body to be found.

The Kruger National Park, located in northeastern South Africa, is one of the largest game reserves on the continent.

The park covers an area of nearly two million hectares, and contains an abundance of wild animals, including the Big Five: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos.

Hunting for Ivory

Like in many other national parks and animal reserves across Africa, poaching is a threat to animals in the KNP, with many searching for ivory from elephant tusks or rhino horns.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has warned that the African elephant will disappear within two decades if urgent action isn't taken to save one of the world's most iconic animal species.

The population of these elephants—the largest animal currently walking the earth—has declined by 70 percent in the last 40 years, in large part because of the illegal ivory trade, which is the biggest driver of elephant poaching, according to the non-profit.

An estimated 20,000 elephants are killed every year to feed this trade—which is equivalent to one death every 26 minutes.

Newsweek has contacted the Kruger National Park for comment.

An African elephant
A file photo of an African elephant in the wild. A suspected poacher was likely killed by an elephant in Kruger National Park, South Africa. iStock