A Spanish tourist was crushed to death by a herd of elephants inside South Africa‘s Pilanesberg National Park after he left his vehicle to take a close-up photo of the breeding animals, local police said.

The unnamed European, described by police as a 43-year-old man, visited the game reserve in South Africa’s North West Province on Sunday, in a private vehicle, according to provincial police spokesperson Sabata Mokgwabone.

He was accompanied by his fiancée and two other women, Mokgwabone said in a statement sent to CNN Wednesday.

The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is South Africa’s fourth-largest park and a popular tourist destination. (Christian Heinrich/imageBROKER/Shutterstock/File)

The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is South Africa’s fourth-largest park and a popular tourist destination.

Police said that while touring the park, the man and his passengers “spotted three elephants with three calves”, adding that “the man stopped the vehicle, alighted and went closer to take pictures” before he was attacked and killed by the herd.

The province’s tourism board said in a statement that the Spaniard “did not heed the warnings” of “his fellow passengers, and occupants from two other vehicles that were at the sighting” before approaching the elephants “that were feeding a distance from the road”.

“An adult elephant cow charged at the man, who then ran … (but) was unfortunately not able to escape or evade the elephant, which was now joined by the whole herd, and was caught and trampled to death,” the board said.

It added that the elephants left the scene afterward and did not attack anyone.

“Statements by witnesses who observed the whole incident further suggest that the female elephant that charged and attacked might have done so to protect the herd and young ones.”

Plans are being made to repatriate the tourist’s body, the Spanish newspaper said, citing officials.

Elephant attacks are not rare in South Africa.

In 2019, a suspected poacher was attacked and killed by an elephant, and his body eaten by lions in the northeastern Kruger National Park, authorities said at the time.

An elderly American tourist was killed when this bull elephant charged the vehicle carrying tourists in Zambia earlier this year. (Nine / Supplied)

In the same year, a security guard was similarly crushed to death by an elephant at a mine in the country’s Limpopo province.

Other parts of southern Africa have witnessed similar tragedies.

The North West tourism board said it was “saddened” by the incident at the Pilanesberg park, urging tourists to “respect distance between vehicles and animals and… to only alight in specially designated areas”.

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