The toddler was the son of a staff member and was living in Malelane Technical Services living quarters, in the park’s south, when the leopard attacked late on Wednesday night (local time).
The boy’s family rushed him to a nearby hospital, but he was later pronounced dead by doctors.
South African National Parks confirmed the death in a statement on Thursday, but did not include the victim’s name or give details about the attack.
Park rangers set out to search for the leopard and a South African National Parks spokesperson said the wild animal was “shot dead to remove the danger of another person falling victim”.
Kruger National Park is a popular destination for local and international tourists who travel to the reserve to see wild animals in their natural habitat.
According to a 2018 report in the African Journal of Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure, it is the most-visited national park in Africa for viewing wildlife, attracting more than 1.8 million visitors in 2016/17.
Thursday’s statement addressed the possibility the attack was the result of the leopard having too much contact with humans.
“In parks like the Kruger National Park, 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 statement read.
“The change in natural behaviour can then lead to unfortunate incidents such as this.
The parks department said support and counselling were being offered to those affected by the boy’s death.
“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 as an organisation,” South African National Parks chief executive Fundisile Mketeni said.
“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.”