At least three poachers who broke into a wildlife preserve in South Africa to kill rhinos met a grisly end when they were attacked and eaten by a pride of hungry lions, park officials said Wednesday.
Staff at the Sibuya Game Reserve in eastern South Africa discovered a human head, limbs and other body parts, along with three pairs of empty shoes, in the park’s lion enclosure. They also found hunting rifles with suppressors, wire cutters and an axe used often used by poachers to cut off rhino horns.
The gruesome discovery led officials to believe that at least three poachers, and possibly more, had been killed, according to park owner Nick Fox.
“We found enough body parts and three pairs of empty shoes which suggest to us that the lions ate at least three of them but it is thick bush and there could be more,” Fox told the Daily Mail. “They came heavily armed with hunting rifles and axes which we have recovered and enough food to last them for several days so we suspect they were after all of our rhinos here.”
The remains were discovered Tuesday evening, but for safety reasons investigators had to wait until the next morning to return and process the scene. Police officials confirmed the body parts had been found in the lion camp and that detectives were trying to piece together how many people had been killed.
Rhino poaching is a serious problem at Sibuya and wildlife preserves across the Eastern Cape region of South Africa. So far in 2018, poachers have shot and killed nine rhinos in the area’s reserves, the Sunday Times reported. (RELATED: Poachers Are Using Social Media Posts To Target Endangered Animals)
In a particularly tragic incident in June, a rhino named Bella was killed in the Kragga Kamma Game Park just two weeks after rangers de-horned her to prevent poaching attempts. Poachers killed her anyway and harvested what remained of her horn.
Rangers in some of South Africa’s wildlife parks are authorized to kill armed poachers if they are threatened with deadly force.
In some cases, however, nature does its own enforcement. Lions killed and ate a poacher in Umbabat Game Reserve in February, forcing his family to identify him by using all that was left of the body — his head.
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