A South African safari leader and big game hunter was crushed to death when an elephant was shot and fell on top of him.

Theunis Botha, 51, was hunting with a group in Gwai, Zimbabwe, when they came across a breeding herd of elephants.

They quickly began to shoot, according to News 24, spooking the animals and causing the elephants to charge at the hunters.

One of the elephants is then said to have picked up Botha with its trunk.

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A member of his group shot the elephant, hoping it would put Botha down. Instead, the wounded and dying animal fell on top of him, crushing him to death.

Botha is survived by his wife Carika and their five children, all who live in Tzaneen, South Africa.

Carika is expected to make the trip to Zimbabwe in the next few days to identify her husband's body and then bring him home.

Theunis Botha (pictured right with his wife, Carika), 51, was hunting with a group in Gwai, Zimbabwe, when they came across a breeding herd of elephants. Photo / Facebook
Theunis Botha (pictured right with his wife, Carika), 51, was hunting with a group in Gwai, Zimbabwe, when they came across a breeding herd of elephants. Photo / Facebook

Botha was a highly regarded houndsman, and frequently led leopard and lion hunting safaris with his pack of dogs for his company Game Hounds Safaris.

The website says he pioneered the traditional European-style "Monteria hunts" in southern African countries.

He was a well known hunter in Zimbabwe, and often travelled to the United States to recruit wealthy Americans to take part in big game trophy hunting in Africa.