Suspected poacher killed by elephants at Kruger National Park

The mangled body was discovered on Thursday during an intelligence operation aimed at preventing poaching, Kruger spokesperson Isaac Phaahla told AFP.

A herd of elephants in the Kruger National Park. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - An elephant has trampled a suspected poacher to death at the Kruger National Park, a spokesperson said on Friday.

The mangled body was discovered on Thursday during an intelligence operation aimed at preventing poaching, Kruger spokesman Isaac Phaahla told AFP.

But before any animals were harmed, an elephant stomped one poacher to death while the others fled, Phaahla said.

"Initial investigations suspect that the deceased was killed by an elephant and left behind by his accomplices," he added.

The elephant conveniently spared the man's cell phone, which rangers have turned over to police to aid their efforts to track down his fellow poachers, he said.

Last year, lions similarly dispatched a poacher in Kruger. That victim's accomplices called an emergency hotline to report him missing.

The lions left behind only the man's head, found three days later, Phaahla said.

Kruger has been hard-hit by poaching, particularly of rhinos. The park reported in February that its rhino population had plunged by 70% over the previous decade, to just under 4,000.

The park has succeeded in cracking down on wildlife crimes over the last two years, thanks to new technology and increased patrols that have helped apprehend suspects before they kill, Phaahla said.

COVID travel restrictions have also given the park a breather.

Kruger has seen a 37% reduction in animals poached compared to last year, he said.

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