A resilient elephant is reported to have trampled a poacher to death in a bid to save its herd.
The shocking discovery was made after a park ranger found a mutilated human body at Kruger National Park (KNP), South Africa, on Thursday 21 October during a patrol operation to combat the illegal hunting of animals.
In a bizarre twist, the man's mobile phone survived the incident in working order, and has been given to police. They intend to access the device in order to trace others involved in the attempted poaching.
Park spokesperson Isaac Phaahla said: "Initial investigations suspect that the deceased was killed by an elephant and left behind by his accomplices."
He added: "No animal was killed in the immediate vicinity.
"KNP management continues to warn poachers that it is dangerous to hunt illegally.
"Criminals stand to lose their lives and freedom."
Isaac revealed that last year another individual suspected of poaching was eaten by lions, with only his skull ever being found.
The park has been a favourite hunting spot for poachers in recent years, and rhinos have been a particular target. In February, officials revealed that the rhino population had dropped to 4,000, a decline of 70 percent on the previous decade.
Covid travel restrictions have helped the park's wildlife recover however, and Phaahla said there had been a 37 percent reduction in animals poached compared to the year before.
While elephants are a magnificent and mostly harmless species, they have been known to attack humans — usually in self-defence.
In May this year, a rogue elephant that killed three people and injured several others was butchered and eaten after being shot by wildlife rangers.
The huge animal had wandered out of one of the national wildlife parks in Benin, west Africa, and became distressed after roving in and around the town of Kandi in the north west of the country.
The elephant had reported been straying close to several neighbouring villages since mid-March.
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