File photo: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko.

JOHANNESBURG - A two-year-old toddler has been fatally mauled by a leopard at staff living quarters in the Kruger National Park (KNP).

On Thursday KNP said the tragic incident occurred at about 8pm on Wednesday night at the Malelane Technical Services living Quarters. 

"KNP can confirm that a leopard killed a staff member’s son last night," said the statement issued early on Thursday.

"The toddler was only 30 months old. The incident took place at 8pm and the boy was certified dead by doctors at the Shongwe Hospital after being rushed there by family members."

The chief executive of South African National Parks, Fundisile Mketeni has extended his condolences to the family of the deceased saying, “our prayers and thoughts are with the family during this trying time, we wish them strength and will give them all the support they need". 

Mketeni added: "It is never easy to lose a loved one especially under such tragic circumstances, this is the risk we live with on a daily basis as we help conserve our species for the benefit of all. May the young toddler’s soul rest in eternal peace.

"Immediately upon hearing of the incident, the Section Ranger, his Lance Corporal with help from the Regional Ranger went out to search for the animal. The offending animal was found and shot dead to remove the danger of another person falling victim." 

In parks like the KNP predators do interact with tourists and staff and at times it may result in species like leopard getting habituated to people and losing their fear. 

"The change in natural behaviour can then lead to unfortunate incidents such as this. This is an unfortunate risk that staff experience when having to live and work in environments like the KNP. These events are very rare occurrences but always tragic when they do occur," said the statement.

KNP Management has sent a delegation to the family to give moral support. Professional counselling will be provided to all involved. 

The name of the deceased has been withheld and will be released once all family members have been notified.      

African News Agency (ANA)