A suspected rhino poacher was recently eaten by a pride of lions at Kruger National Park (KNP) in South Africa after he was trampled by an elephant. The poacher was with a group of hunters who were reportedly tracking Rhinos at the park. The man was instantly killed when the elephant crushed him before the other hunters fled on foot in fear for their lives.
The hunters, who panicked and called the police on themselves, were quickly captured by rescue crews and questioned by local authorities.
“According to the family of the deceased, they were called by his accomplices who notified them that their relative had been killed by an elephant while they were in the KNP to poach a rhino on Tuesday evening,” media spokesperson Isaac Phaahla said.
Search teams were not able to recover the body before dark, and by the next morning, the poacher’s body had been devoured by a pride of lions.
According to a press release issued after the incident:
“Kruger Park Rangers immediately set out for the area – known as Crocodile Bridge – and sent up their airwing in a bid to find the poacher’s remains before darkness fell. Ranger Don English led the team out again at first light on Wednesday having reassured the distraught poacher’s family he would do his best to recover the body. But the rangers team had no luck and re-interviewed the captured poachers in a bid to get more detail as to where the elephant attacked and killed their friend. The rangers then managed to find what was left of the poacher on Thursday but it appeared he had been eaten by a lion pride. All that was left to bring back into camp was the poacher’s bloodied head and a pair of his pants.”
Managing executive of KNP, Glenn Phillips expressed sadness for the deceased and his family but said that the dangers of entering the park unattended are well known.
“Entering the Kruger illegally and on foot is not wise as it holds very many dangers and this incident is clear evidence of that. It was very sad to see the daughters of the deceased man mourning the loss of their father, and worse still, only being able to recover very little of his remains,” Phillips said.
There are roughly 29,000 rhinos in the world and it is estimated that 80% of them are located in South Africa. According to the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, poachers killed 1,028 rhino across South Africa in 2017.
Rhino horns can be sold for up to $100,000 per kilogram, which is just over two pounds. Considering that most of these horns weigh an average of two to seven pounds each, a poacher could make anywhere between $100,000 and $350,000 from of a single rhino horn. However, these high prices are unique to specific areas in Asia where some cultures believe that horns and tusks of certain animals have important medicinal qualities. On the black market in South Africa, these horns fetch a much lower price, typically around $3,000 per pound.
Last year, at a different wildlife reserve in South Africa a different poacher was eaten by a pride of lions after entering the park without permission. Nick Fox, the owner of Sibuya Game Reserve in South Africa where the incident occurred, told Newsweek that there wasn’t much left of the hunter when he was found.
“The only body part we found was one skull and one bit of pelvis, everything else was completely gone. There is so little left that they don’t know exactly how many people were killed, we suspect three because we found three sets of shoes and three sets of gloves.”