At least three illegal hunters were believed to have been ripped apart and eaten alive by wild lions after the men broke into a South African game reserve. Only one head was recovered at the scene.
According to local reports, the weapons and body parts of at least two, possibly three, alleged would-be rhino poachers were found in Sibuya, a South African game reserve, late on July 3rd. Evidence at the scene showed that they were eaten by a pride of lions.
It was reported that dogs from an anti-poaching unit had responded to something unusual during a morning patrol on Monday, but it was not until Tuesday afternoon that a skull was seen in the local lion camp. This prompted reserve owner Nick Fox, 60, to investigate with his colleagues.
The group eventually found a hunting rifle with a silencer attached and a long axe and wire cutters at the scene.
“What we did see is the rifle on the ground as well as food, mainly bread, scattered everywhere. Human remains were also clearly visible,” Fox said.
Based on the evidence found on the scene, Fox believes that more than one person was attacked by the lions.
“Judging from the shoes and items found on the scene, I suspect it is about two or maybe three (alleged poachers) who were killed. The remains were scattered over a very wide area, making it difficult to comb the scene and get all the evidence,” he said.
However, they were able to surmise that the alleged poachers had probably entered the reserve on Sunday night or early Monday morning. The intrusion was only discovered after the anti-poaching unit dog started barking while on patrol.
“The dogs’ reaction was then followed by a commotion coming from the pride of lions. On Tuesday afternoon we were then alerted to a skull that was seen near the lions,” he said.
“I went to investigate together with the anti-poaching unit. Because it was too dangerous to get out of the car, we could not examine the scene as the lions were close-by.”
As it was getting dark, the search party was called off to resume on Wednesday after they had tranquillized the lions. Fox also decided to call in the police.
“It was a pride of six lions that we darted in order to give police time to comb the scene. The evidence was covered over a very wide area and obviously, due to the tranquillizer only lasting a certain period, we had limited time.”
“We found enough body parts and three pairs of empty shoes, which suggested to us that the lions ate at least three of them, but it is a 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 for 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 you will not always be the winner.”
The Booming Illegal Animal Trade Industry
The world is experiencing an unprecedented spike in illegal wildlife trade, threatening to overturn decades of conservation gains. In between 2007 and 2013, rhino poaching in South Africa increased from 13 to 1,004 incidents, an astounding 7,700% increase, with poachers killing an average of three rhinos every day.
Wildlife crime is a big deal. Managed by dangerous international networks, wild animals and their parts are traded like drugs and illegal weapons. Ivory weighing more than 23 tons, which is equivalent to 2,500 elephants, was confiscated during the 13 largest seizures of illegal ivory in 2011. Poaching threatens the last of our wild tigers, which total about 3,890 today.
Poachers are the single biggest threat to the survival of elephants and other large wild herbivores, which are crucial to ecosystems and human societies. Large herbivores are facing dramatic population declines and range contractions in recent times, with approximately 60% at risk of extinction. Almost all endangered species are found in developing countries, where hunting, land-use change, and the depletion of livestock resources pose the greatest threat.
The loss of large herbivores may affect other species, including large carnivores, scavengers, mesoherbivores, small mammals, and ecological processes involving vegetation, hydrology, nutrient cycling, and vegetation. The rate of decline of large herbivores suggests that more and more areas of the world will soon lack many of the important environmental benefits of these animals, resulting in enormous environmental and social costs 
“TORN TO PIECES Rhino poachers ripped apart and EATEN ALIVE by lions after breaking into South Africa game reserve.” The Sun. July, 2018.
“3 Alleged Rhino Poachers Eaten by Lions.” National Geographic. July, 2018.
“Lions Eat Three Rhino Poachers Alive In South African Game Reserve.” Healthy Food House. February, 2019.
“Illegal Wildlife Trade.” World Wildlife.
“Collapse of the world’s largest herbivores.” Science Mag. May, 2015.