Breeding elephants trampled a suspected rhino poacher to death at the weekend in South Africa's famed Kruger National Park, an official said today.

Rangers on routine patrol spotted three poachers who ran into the elephant herd while trying to flee.

The rangers later discovered a "badly trampled" man who had succumbed to his injuries, according to South African National Parks (SANParks) spokesman Isaac Phaahla.

Another man was also attacked but managed to flee, while a third was in custody.

The rangers recovered a rifle and an axe, Mr Phaahla said.

Poachers, who are part of a global trafficking syndicate, shoot rhinos and chop off their horns to feed an insatiable demand in Asia where they are used in traditional medicine or believed to be an aphrodisiac.

South Africa, home to about 80% of the world's rhino population, has been a haven for poachers, with much of the killing concentrated in Kruger.

But the slaughter has decreased over the past six years.

In 2020, the rhino death toll dropped by a third to 394 over the previous year, according to government statistics.

Nevertheless, Mr Phaahla told AFP, incursions have not decreased, and can total up to 40 a day.