Although humans fight to protect endangered species, sometimes they fight for themselves — and each other. In South Africa Kruger National Parks, a breeding herd of elephants trampled a suspected rhino poacher to death. The deceased and his two accomplices had accidentally stumbled upon the herd and immediately regretted it.
Herd of elephants trampled a poacher in South Africa
When the rangers came, the poachers ran, dropping an ax and other provisions. The rangers caught one suspect. He “informed the rangers that the group had run into a herd of elephants and was not sure if his accomplice had managed to escape.” 
According to a statement from the park, “The Rangers discovered his accomplice badly trampled and unfortunately succumbed to his injuries. The third suspect is said to have been injured in the eye but continued to flee. A rifle was recovered, and the case was referred to police, who together with the pathology team attended to the scene.”
To clarify, elephants are the largest vegetarians in the world. They are generally gentle animals, but they will become violent to protect their habitat or their young, which is what must’ve happened in this case. 
Afterward, Gareth Coleman, managing executive of the Kruger National Park, encouraged everyone who lived in the area to come forward with any information. “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. Only through discipline, teamwork, and tenacity will we be able to help stem the tide of rhino poaching in KNP,” he said.
“The campaign against poaching is the responsibility of all of us; it threatens many livelihoods, destroys families, and takes much-needed resources to fight crime which could be used for creating jobs and development.”
Three more arrests
Fortunately, justice met a few more poachers. The day after the herd of elephants trampled a poacher, the rangers for the South Africa National Parks arrested three more suspected poachers. They carried a high-caliber hunting rifle and an assortment of poaching equipment.
Subsequently, Coleman gave a new statement about the arrests. “We hope these arrests send a strong message to would-be poachers that we are more than determined to stop them in their tracks to ensure the survival of our rhino species.
“We have strategies in place to ensure that we win this campaign. The arrests are a good morale booster for our men and women at the forefront of the anti-poaching campaign.” 
About Kruger National Park
The 7,580-square-miles park — one of the largest wildlife preserves in Africa — houses about 4,000 rhinos. However, poachers hunt these creatures for their horns. Simply put, the horns are symbols of high social status and used in traditional medicines in Asian countries. But poaching is a dangerous activity, as demonstrated by the trampled poacher incident. 
“Poaching gangs have clearly been able to infiltrate the ranger force within Kruger — and other parks and reserves— as evidenced by arrests,” said Cathy Dean. Dean is the CEO of Save the Rhino International, a London-based nonprofit.
“Entering Kruger National Park illegally and on foot is not wise, it holds many dangers and this incident is evidence of that,” said Glenn Phillips, the preserve’s manager. “It is very sad to see the daughters of the deceased mourning the loss of their father, and worse still, only being able to recover very little of his remains.” 
Furthermore, the good news is that rhino poaching in South Africa is declining. The rhino killings fell 33 percent in 2020, perhaps due to lockdowns for the pandemic. The number began to rise again when the restrictions began lifting. Additionally, the fewer killings could be because there are simply fewer rhinos to poach than in past years. However, 66 alleged rhino poachers were arrested in Kruger in 2020, 90 outside the park. 
These arrests, along with targeted surveillance technology in the park, help protect the rhinos from future killings. And it seems the elephants are helping as well.
- “Media Release: Suspected Poacher Killed by Elephants in the KNP.” South African National Parks. April 18, 2021
- “Elephants trample suspected poacher in South African park; second poacher injured and missing.” USA Today. Joel Burgess. April 19, 2021
- “Suspected poacher trampled to death by elephants in South Africa.” CNN. Amy Cassidy. April 19, 2021
- “Elephants trample suspected rhino poacher to death in South African national park.” The Washington Post. Jennifer Hassan. April 20, 2021
- “A suspected rhino poacher was trampled by an elephant and believed to be eaten by lions.” Insider. Susanna Heller. April 7, 2019
- “How the world’s largest rhino population dropped by 70 percent—in a decade.” National Geographic. Dina Fine Maron. February 2, 2021