A suspected poacher was trampled to after running into a herd of elephants at the worst possible moment, according to South Africa National Parks (SANParks) authorities.

The man was one of three suspected rhino poachers being pursued by park rangers through Kruger National Park during the past weekend, according to a news release from SANParks.

"When they realized they had been spotted, the suspected poachers dropped an ax and a bag with their provisions in an attempt to escape from the rangers," SANParks said.

A rifle was also recovered by authorities.

The rangers used dogs and air support to track down the three suspects. They finally apprehended one who said his accomplice had run into a herd of breeding elephants, but he had no idea what happened after that.

Rangers went to the location where the man was last seen and discovered that he had been "badly trampled," according to SANParks.

The number of elephants involved is unknown, but an adult African elephant can weigh up to 3.3 tons.

The suspect died as a result of his injuries.

"The campaign against poaching is the responsibility of all us," Gareth Coleman, managing executive of the park, said in the statement. "It threatens many livelihoods, destroys families, and takes much-needed resources to fight crime which could be used for creating jobs and development."

In 2019, a suspected rhino poacher at the same park was killed by an elephant and then eaten by lions. Only his skull and pants were recovered.

South Africa has about 80% of the world's rhino population, and according to AFP, 394 rhinos were killed by poachers in 2020, with up to 40 incursions into the park every day. Poachers sell rhino horns to the Asian market for use in traditional medicine or as an aphrodisiac.

Kruger National Park is one of Africa's biggest game reserves, with thousands of African elephants.