The man and two alleged accomplices tried to run away when rangers spotted them at Kruger National Park, one of Africa’s largest game reserves, on Saturday, South African National Parks said in a statement.
Rangers requested backup from the Airwing and K9 unit and when the suspects realized they had been spotted, they dropped an axe, and a bag with their provisions in an attempt to escape,” the statement added.
One of the suspects told rangers that the group ran into a herd of elephants and he was unsure if his pals managed to escape. Rangers searched the area and found a man “badly trampled,” who later succumbed to his injuries, according to the release.
Authorities are still looking for the third suspect, who continued to flee and is believed to have suffered an eye injury.
A rifle was also recovered. Officials said the trio are suspected of attempting to poach rhinos in the area.
“It is unfortunate that a life was unnecessarily lost,” said Gareth Coleman, managing executive of the Kruger National Park. “The campaign against poaching is the responsibility of all us; it threatens many livelihoods, destroys families, and takes much-needed resources to fight crime which could be used for creating jobs and development.”