Three poachers hunted down and eaten by pride of lions after they broke into game reserve to kill rhinos

At least three poachers were killed by a pride of lions at the Sibuya Game Reserve South Africa after they illegally entered the reserve to hunt rhinos and collect horns

                            Three poachers hunted down and eaten by pride of lions after they broke into game reserve to kill rhinos
(Source:Getty Images)

Poachers who broke into a game reserve in South Africa presumably to kill rhinos for their horns were attacked by a pride of lions. At least three poachers are believed to have subsequently been eaten by the carnivores. Human remains were recovered from the gruesome scene by the staff at the game reserve including a head and limbs. The employees discovered the remains at the Sibuya Game Reserve Kenton-on-Sea in Eastern Province, South Africa. A helicopter was called immediately after to scour the surrounding areas for more poachers who may be around. No other people were found and the area was declared safe for the vet to tranquilize the six lions who mauled the men so that the authorities and reserve staff could go to the area and recover the remains.

Express Online reported that 60-year-old Nick Fox, the owner of the reserve, said: “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. They came heavily armed with hunting rifles and axes which we have recovered, and enough food to last them several days. So we suspect they were after all of our rhinos here. But the lions are our watchers and guardians and they picked the wrong pride and became a meal. Whilst we are saddened at any loss of life, the poachers came here to kill our animals and this sends out a very clear message to any other poachers that they will not always be the winners."

Being one of the most popular game reserves in the Eastern Cape, visitors flock to the reserve every year to see the African Big Five — elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, and leopard. The game reserve covers an area of approximately 30 square miles. Sibuya lost three rhinos back in 2016 to poachers when they were shot dead and their horns were cut off to be sold on the black market. This time, however, the poachers were not successful and ended up being the ones who were killed.

Nick Fox said: “The lions may have eaten more of them. It is difficult to tell as the area is very thick with bush and you cannot be sure what they have taken off to feed on elsewhere. The best estimate we have so far is that three of the gang were eaten. They were armed with high powered rifles with silencers and an ax for the horns and wire cutters and side arms and they had enough food with them to last for many days. They were clearly intent on killing rhinos and cutting off their horns." 

The remains of the three deceased poachers were found late in the evening of July 3 but they could only be recovered from the area on July 4 in the day and after the area was declared safe.

Captain Mali Govender, a spokesperson for the police, said that the department has confirmed that there were remains found close to where the pride is normally seen. She also said that detectives were at the scene trying to see how many poachers had been eaten by the hungry predators.

Captain Govender said: “We do not know identities but firearms have been taken by the police and will be sent to the ballistics laboratory to see if they have been used in poaching before." There have already been nine rhino deaths this year that have been killed by poachers on the Eastern Cape reserves. The authorities are hoping this is the same gang that was responsible for the deaths of the other rhinos in what is Mother Nature's version of justice. The poachers in the area all use high-caliber hunting rifles for killing the animals they are after.

In February this year, a poacher who had gone to the Umbabat Game Reserve close to Kruger National Park to hunt lions was killed by a pride. He was identified from the only body part that was recovered, his head, when his sister-in-law confirmed it was him.

Animals are not the only ones who are slowly lashing out at the number of poachers who seem to be swamping the continent. Three poachers were shot dead by wildlife troopers after they were spotted sneaking into a national park located in Kenya. The heavily armed poachers were believed to have come from Uganda. They illegally entered the Mount Elgon National Park on June 6 and were there to slaughter elephants and steal their precious ivory tusks.

A shootout then took place between the poachers and rangers from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), whose job is to protect the animals in the park. The KWS said that they successfully managed to kill three of the poachers but two of them escaped although they were injured. The agency said in a statement: "The officers were on routine patrol inside the park when they encountered five poachers, two of whom were armed. A fierce shootout ensued and three of the poachers were gunned down while two others escaped. AK-47 rifles were recovered."

Even though the number of animals that are poached in the country has reduced since the time it reached its peak in 2012, it is still an on-going problem with 69 elephants and nine rhinos killed in 2017.

Africa loses 33,000 elephants every year and this means that an elephant is killed every 20 minutes. In spite of an international trade ban on ivory that was introduced in 1997, African elephants are still being poached in shockingly large numbers. The poachers want the tusks of the animals because the ivory will be carved out into ornaments and jewelry. China is the biggest consumer of tusks from elephants and parts from many other animals because they believe it has healing properties.

In June this year, three rhinos were found slaughtered in the Meru National Park's Rhino Sanctuary with their horns missing. The tourism ministry said that this brutal attack was an act of poaching. Animals are not the only ones being killed. People who try to expose the black market ring or get close to finding out the truth are also killed in blatant displays of power from the people on the wrong side of the law. 

On February 4 this year, a well-respected American investigator of the illegal ivory and rhino horn industry was found murdered in his home in Nairobi with a stab wound to the neck. One conservation group said that Esmond Bradley-Martin was about to publish a damaging report that would blow the lid off of how the ivory business had shifted from China to countries nearby. Esmond had spent many decades tracking the movements of animal products leaving the continent and making their way to Asian markets.