This story is about the fate of three illegal poachers, but I’d like to start by asking you, the reader, a question: if someone offered you a job poaching endangered species, would you take it? The answer is probably not, right? It sounds dangerous and awful for the planet and you likely already have a job that pays enough.
But what if it was all you had? Would you take up a gun and hunt an endangered species if it was the only way to feed your family and care for your community?
Why desperate people turn to poaching
Titles like the one featured in this article might make you cheer. It might make you say ‘thank goodness, another poacher bit the dust.’ But poaching is, in reality, a tragedy for humans nearly as much as it is for the animals being poached. Poaching is an industry created by and held in place by extreme poverty, which in itself is simply another choice made by humanity.
“Ever since I was a child, hunting is all I’ve known,” Philmon Mathe, a former poacher, told the BBC in an interview. Mathe retired from poaching after he lost a leg from a gunshot wound during a hunt. Worse yet, Mathe was shot by his own cousin, a security guard who works on the reserve he was hunting in.
“Unemployment drove me to this,” he continues. 
When I first read that excerpt from the BBC, those last 5 words lingered in my mind. “Unemployment drove me to this.” In the west, we’re exposed to stories like the one about Walter Palmer, the rich dentist who killed Cecil, a beloved lion living in a Zimbabwe reserve.  Palmer, whose smiling face was captured in a photo showing him looming over the lion he had killed, had a job. And he was rich. He spent much of the latter part of his middle aged years traveling the world and killing the animals he found there.
On Palmer’s kill list are 43 different animals, including a polar bear, a mountain lion, an elephant, a leopard, a rhino, a cape buffalo – the list goes on. When we hear about people like Palmer, rich Americans who spend their vast wealth poaching exotic animals, it’s easy to assume every poacher is like that.
But the reality is, they aren’t. Poaching is a dangerous job taken up by many who are at their most vulnerable and desperate, and the danger of the job caught up with three illegal hunters in June of 2018.
Three poachers eaten by lions in South Africa
Staff at the Subuya Game Reserve near Kenton-on-Sea, South Africa, discovered the bloody remnants of what had been three poachers. The only physical remains left behind, aside from blood, was a single human head.
A veterinarian at the reserve tranquilised six lions in a local pride so that staff could recover the remains.
“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,” said Nick Fox, the owner of the reserve in an interview with The Sun. 
“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,” he continued.
“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.”
Poachers aren’t the only ones being killed
The three humans, whose identities were not confirmed as of July 2018, are not the only losers in the deadly embrace humans often have with animals. By summer of 2018, nine rhinos had been killed by poachers in Eastern Cape reserves, according to police spokeswoman Captain Mali Govender. 
And similar to the humans in this story, in February 2018, lions killed a poacher in Umbabat Game Reserve near Kruger National Park in South Africa.
Poaching is a problem that isn’t solved by the death of a few hunters. It is a problem that can only be solved by destroying the markets for exotic animal parts and uplifting working people out of poverty.
- “The real reasons why people poach endangered species” BBC. Kara Segedin. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
- “Dentist Who Killed Beloved Lion in Hiding, Has US Poaching Record.” Newsmax. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
- “Rhino poachers ripped apart and EATEN ALIVE by lions after breaking into South Africa game reserve.” The Sun. Jamie Pyatt. Retrieved November 20, 2020.