A suspected poacher died after being trampled by a breeding herd of elephants in South Africa’s Kruger National Park on Saturday, park officials said in a statement. Three suspects were fleeing from park rangers when they encountered the herd. One suspected poacher was arrested, while the third is still at large, the officials said.
The group isn’t suspected of poaching elephants, but rhinos.
“We are proud of the teamwork and dedication of our Rangers Corp, our aviators and the K9 unit. It is unfortunate that a life was unnecessarily lost,” Gareth Coleman, managing executive of the park, said in the statement. “Only through discipline, teamwork and tenacity will we be able to help stem the tide of rhino poaching in KNP.”
According to the park, field rangers on a routine patrol discovered the suspected poachers, who ran, dropping an ax and a bag of provisions. When one suspect was arrested, he told the rangers the group had run into the elephant herd and that he didn’t know if all of the group had escaped.
The man who died was badly trampled. The still-missing suspect is said to have been injured in the eye but successfully fled and is being sought by rangers.
“The campaign against poaching is the responsibility of all us,” Coleman said, urging anyone with information about the third suspect to alert the rangers. “It threatens many livelihoods, destroys families and takes much-needed resources to fight crime which could be used for creating jobs and development.”
In 2019, a suspected rhino poacher at the same park was killed by an elephant and then eaten by lions, CBS News reports. Only his skull and pants were recovered.
South Africa is home to about 80% of the world’s rhino population, and AFP reports that 394 rhinos were killed by poachers in 2020, with up to 40 incursions into the park a day. Poachers sell rhino horns to the Asian market for use in traditional medicine or as an aphrodisiac, AFP says.