A suspected poacher found dead in a South African national park is believed to have been killed by an elephant, park officials said.
Rangers in Kruger National Park discovered the body on Thursday after following tracks in the Stolznek section of the giant game reserve, a spokesperson for the park said in a statement on Twitter.
“Initial investigations suspect that the deceased was killed by an elephant and left behind by his accomplices,” the statement said.
The identity of the deceased individual was not released.
The Rangers did not find any animals killed in the immediate area, the spokesperson said.
Park officials took the opportunity to warn that it is “dangerous to hunt illegally” in the park.
“Criminals stand to lose their lives and freedom,” the statement said.
Kruger National Park is South Africa’s largest wildlife sanctuary, encompassing nearly 5 million acres. The game reserve is also one of the hardest-hit regions in the country for rhino poaching. The park’s rhino population has decreased by 60% since 2013. In the first half of 2020, 166 rhinos were poached in South Africa, with 88 in Kruger National Park.
There are 3,529 white rhinos and 268 black rhinos left in Kruger National Park, according to South African National Parks.
To help combat rhino poaching, in recent months Kruger National Park has deployed more patrols in addition to using dogs and detection technologies to track suspects.
Between July and September, there was a nearly 30% increase in the number of poachers arrested in the park compared with the same period last year, according to South African National Parks.