A group of poachers have been killed and eaten after an attempt to break into a nature reserve went drastically wrong. Apparently, the poachers were set on hunting rhinos inside and killing them to sell their horns, so they planned to sneak into the reserve after closing time with their weapons. Things went wrong when a pride of lions stumbled upon them and launched their own attack, killing and eating at least three people. Three pairs of shoes were recovered in the area, as well as a number of hunting rifles, wirecutters and an axe in the Sibuya Game Reserve near Kenton-on-Sea in Eastern Province, South Africa. A police helicopter was called to search for the poachers but none were located.
Demand for rhino horns in parts of Asia, particularly in countries like China and Vietnam where powdered rhino horn is falsely thought to have aphrodisiac qualities, is depressingly high. Nine rhinos are reported to have been killed so far this year in the Eastern Cape province alone and more than 7,000 in South Africa have been hunted and shot in the past decade. Animal actions groups, people who run reserves and the government have been struggling to stem the tide of attempted attacks and have taken to preemptively trimming the horns of rhinos and tusks of elephants down so there is no incentive for the animals to be slaughtered by poachers, but this doesn't always work as just a shard of a horn or tusk can be valuable.
Owner Nick Fox, 60, 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 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.” A police spokesperson confirmed the deaths and said laboratory tests would be run on the items left behind to discern if the group really were poachers, 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."