Wildlife poaching is a crime that harms local communities, wildlife populations, and the environment in various ways. It is fueled by a lucrative black market trade of animal parts, and numerous environmental groups, animal rights groups, and government agencies are calling for an end to it.
Rhino poaching is a severe threat in all rhino range states, as the horns of these animals are highly valuable. They are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and are also seen as a status symbol to display success and wealth.
The Sibuya Game Reserve is located in the South African province of Eastern Cape, and it is the home of numerous animals, including the five biggest game animals in Africa: lions, rhinos, elephants, buffalos, and leopards.
Over the last years, there have been several intrusions by poachers. However, an incident that happened in 2018 can now serve as a warning for them to stay away.
Namely, when a group of poachers entered the reserve to hunt rhinos, a pack of lions devoured them!
It is believed there were three men, as investigators found three sets of shoes and gloves, but very little of their remains were left.
Nick Fox, the park’s owner, believes that this was because the predators had many hours to feast, as the poachers were eaten alive sometime between the evening of July 1 and the early morning of July 2.
“The only body part we found was one skull and one bit of pelvis, everything else was completely gone.”
He guessed that the incident probably happened around 4:30 a.m. on July 2, as then, one of the reserve’s anti-poaching dogs gave a warning. Yet, it was ignored by the dog handler, as this was typical behavior for that time of the morning.
Later on in the day, one of the rangers found the bloodied remains, and they immediately notified the police.
“At about 4.30 pm on Tuesday, one of our field guides on game drive alerted the Anti-Poaching Unit that there appeared to be human remains as well as other items in the immediate vicinity of the lions.
I was immediately called to the scene where along with the APU we found the high powered rifle, gloves, wire cutters and the remains of a backpack with food, water, and other supplies. We immediately alerted the Indalo (Association of Eastern Cape Game Reserves) Anti-Poaching Cluster and the Police. Clearly, the poachers had walked into a pride of six lions and some, if not all had been killed.”
Police spokeswoman Captain Mali 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.”
They called in a search party and enlisted the help of a helicopter to scout for any survivors, but they found none.
“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 for several days so we suspect they were after all of our rhinos here.”
He hopes that this incident will send a message to poachers not to risk their lives by illegally hunting game:
“Whilst we have 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 lions are our watchers and guardians and they picked the wrong pride and became a meal.”
He said that numerous people called him to ask about the fate of the lions, and he explained:
“They won’t be killed. The status quo will continue.”
The number of rhinos is drastically reduced all around the world, mostly due to habitat loss and poaching. In the past decade, over 7,000 of them have been killed in South Africa only.
Believe it or not, a single horn can be sold for up to $300,000, but on the South African black market, white rhino horns sell for up to just $3,000.
In 2016, poachers entered The Sibuya Game Reserve, shot three rhinos dead, and cut off their horns. This time, poachers ended up as preys.