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Rhino Poachers Eaten by Lions While Hunting In South African Game Reserve

Lions Maul Poachers

Reserve owner Nick Fox said they found enough body parts and three pairs of empty shoes likely belonging to the suspected poachers. (Image courtesy of the Sibuya Game Reserve)

At least two suspected rhino poachers were mauled and eaten by a pride of lions after somehow wandering onto an African game reserve, officials said Thursday.

Rangers said they discovered the remains of two, possibly three, people in a lion enclosure on the Sibuya Game Reserve, near the southeast city of Kenton-on-Sea, according to BBC News. A high-powered rifle and an ax were also located nearby.

“They strayed into a pride of lions — it’s a big pride so they didn’t have too much time,” reserve owner Nick Fox told AFP News Agency. “We are not sure how many there were. There’s not much left of them.”

In a Facebook post, Fox said the poachers entered the reserve either late Sunday night or early Monday morning, noting that they had what he called “… all the hallmarks of a gang intent on killing rhino and removing their horns.” Not only were they armed with a powerful rifle with a silencer, but were also carrying gloves, wire cutters and a book bag full of food supplies.

The reserve’s anti-poaching team arrived on the scene after a field guide alerted them to the human remains. Fox said all six of the lions had to be tranquilized before the poachers’ remains could be recovered.

“As it was already dark, it was not possible to investigate the area until first light, at which time we arranged for our vet to dart the entire pride of lions so that police forensic teams assisted by our anti-poaching unit could comb the immediate area for clues,” he explained. “At this stage, it is not clear exactly how many poachers were killed but the Police forensic team continue to investigate.”

According to BBC News, Africa has seen an uptick in poaching in recent years, as poachers work to feed the growing demand for rhino parts in Asia. The rhino horn, in particular, is believed to have healing and aphrodisiac qualities in parts of Vietnam, China and elsewhere.

More than 7,000 rhinos have been killed in South Africa in the last decade, including nine that were shot dead for their horns on Eastern Cape reserves already this year, the Mirror UK reported.

Since Monday’s incident, authorities have continued patrolling the Sibuya reserve, which also houses a large group of rhinos, in case any of the suspected poachers survived.

“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 you will not always be the winner, ” Fox said.

“They were clearly intent on killing rhinos and cutting off their horns,” he continued. “But the lions are our watchers and guardians and they picked the wrong pride and became a meal.”

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