Poachers have killed 19 elephants so far in 2015 in South Africa's biggest national park, whose elephant population had largely been spared attacks by poaching syndicates until this year, South African officials said Thursday.

Kruger National Park reported the first confirmed elephant poaching in more than a decade in May 2014, and the toll of poached elephants for that year was two.

The national parks service said 12 of the elephants killed in Kruger park this year were poached in September and October. Poachers are already killing record levels of rhinos in the park.

Officials had feared that the widespread slaughter of elephants elsewhere in Africa could eventually threaten Kruger park, which has been vulnerable to poachers who enter through the border with neighboring Mozambique.