A suspected poacher was trampled to death after running into a herd of elephants at exactly the worst possible time on Saturday, in what South Africa National Parks (SANParks) officials described as an “unfortunate” incident.
The man was one of three suspected rhino poachers whom park rangers were chasing through Kruger National Park at the time, SANParks said in a news release.
“When they realized they had been spotted, the suspected poachers dropped an axe and a bag with their provisions in an attempt to escape from the rangers,” SANParks said.
Officials also recovered a rifle.
The rangers pursued the three suspects with dogs and air support. They eventually caught up with one who said his accomplice had run into a herd of breeding elephants, but he did not know what happened after that.
Rangers went to the spot where the man was last seen and found that he had been “badly trampled,” SANParks said.
It’s unclear how many elephants were involved, but a single adult African elephant can weigh up to 3.3 tonnes.
The suspect ultimately died of his injuries.
“It is unfortunate that a life was unnecessarily lost,” Gareth Coleman, the managing executive of Kruger National Park, said in a statement.
Authorities ultimately arrested one suspect and were still looking for the second one on Monday. He got away with an eye injury, they said.
“Only through discipline, teamwork and tenacity will we be able to help stem the tide of rhino poaching in KNP,” Coleman added.
Kruger National Park is one of Africa’s largest game reserves and home to thousands of African elephants.
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