A group of poachers got an unexpected surprise when they were attacked by a pride of lions after breaking into the Sibuya Game Reserve in South Africa to hunt rhinoceroses earlier this week.
A trained guard on the reserve, who was equipped with a dog that is specially trained to detect poachers, was alerted to commotion coming from the lions about 4:30 in the morning on Monday. The activity was dismissed because this is a time when the lions are usually active, and officials believe this is when the hunters were killed.
“The only body part we found was one skull and one bit of pelvis, everything else was completely gone,” Fox told Newsweek. “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.”
The police also recovered the team’s hunting gear in thick, thorny brush near the group of lions, including a high-powered rifle with a silencer and an ax, which was presumably for removing the horns of rhinos after killing them. In addition, officials found food, water, and wire cutters.
The lions were shot with tranquilizer darts to protect reserve employees and police who were involved in the recovery effort on Wednesday. Fox told Sowetan Live, “The remains were scattered over a very wide area making it difficult to comb the scene and get all the evidence.”
Poaching has become a serious problem in the Eastern Cape. According to The South African, there have already been nine rhinos killed this year in the Eastern Cape alone, and investigators have reason to believe that there are two groups of poachers responsible for the killings.