The number of elephant poaching incidents is up 400% since the start of the year – and it’s not come as a surprise to those trying to stop the practice.
There are fears the trade could take over from rhino poaching, where there has been a 17% fall in cases.
Sky’s Special Correspondent Alex Crawford joined a helicopter pilot over the Kruger park as officials searched for elephant carcasses, trying to stop poachers who hide in the bush and often operate at night.
But there are just three helicopters to patrol an area the size of Wales 24 hours a day.
Only 15% of the national park is open to tourists, while the rest is wild – and that is where the poachers take root.
Pilot Jaco Mol said he was working with teams on the ground and believed they were making a difference.
He told Sky News: “The animals don’t have a voice. We’ve got to be their voice. We’ve got to preserve the animals for our children and our children’s children.
“We’ve been expecting an increase in elephant poaching as the rhino population decreases and as the value of elephants increases.”
He added: “Luckily we don’t have the same magnitude of an elephant problem or poaching that countries to the north have got.”
But he admitted: “It’s about to start and we have to nip it now, we have to stop it before it becomes a major problem.”
Mr Mol explained how the helicopters helped the ground teams in the poaching crackdown: “It gives the guys on the ground the knowledge that they are not alone, there’s somebody above them looking after them.
“As soon as the guys start following up, or they are patrolling or checking suspected poachers, as soon as we put an aircraft or two in the air, the guys can’t run which gives our forces in the ground the chance to catch up and make an arrest.”
He added: “We want to do more but the problem is we only have so many aircraft in a vast area to control.”
A forthcoming wildlife conference in South Africa will discuss ways of saving rhinos and elephants.
:: Mr Mol was speaking after a professional hunter and his client broke down in tears, when they needed seven shots to kill an elephant they had spent four days tracking.
Sky News joined Jofie Lamprecht on a trophy hunt in the north of Namibia after two years of trying to get permission.