A suspected rhinoceros poacher met a brutal — and arguably karmic — end at a wild game preserve last week, when he was reportedly killed by an elephant and his remains were eaten by a pride of lions, according to park officials at Kruger National Park in South Africa.
In a statement released last Friday, Kruger park officials said they collected what remained of the suspected poacher after being contacted by his family. A team from the preserve found the body on Thursday morning.
A local law enforcement spokesman, Brig. Leonard Hlathi, told South African media that four men who were hunting rhino with the suspected poacher told his family that he was attacked “suddenly” by an elephant and killed immediately. The four men carried the body as far as a main road, but then abandoned their hunting companion and left the park.
The man’s hunting companions then contacted his family to tell them what happened. The family called the Kruger National Park, and wildlife officials there promised they would try to provide the family with “closure” by locating the man’s remains.
After several days searching, wildlife officials finally stumbled upon what was left of the suspected poacher near the “Crocodile Bridge” area of the park: a skull and a pair of pants.
According to KNP’s statement, it appears the man was consumed by a local pride of lions.
“Indications found at the scene suggested that a pride of lions had devoured the remains leaving only a human skull and a pair of pants,” the statement says.
The Park’s managing executive, Glenn Phillips, offered both his condolences to the family and a warning to other possible poachers in his own statement released this weekend.
“Entering Kruger National Park illegally and on foot is not wise, it holds many dangers and this incident is evidence of that,” Phillips told South African local media. “It is very sad to see the daughters of the deceased mourning the loss of their father, and worse still, only being able to recover very little of his remains.”
The four men who reported being on KNP’s land illegally have been arrested and are awaiting trial.
“Kruger National Park is a protected area, but poaching rhinos remains a major problem because the price for their horns has skyrocketed to $27,000 a pound – or $1,700 an ounce, $400 more than the current price of gold,” USA Today reports. “The World Wide Fund for Nature, a wilderness preservation group, said the number of rhinos poached in South Africa soared from 13 in 2007 to 1,215 in 2014, despite efforts by the government to deter the killings. The WWF considers black rhinos ‘critically endangered’ and white rhinos ‘near threatened.'”
The horns are ground up and used as a medicine (and as an aphrodisiac) in Southeast Asia.
Kruger National Park, which runs along South Africa’s northern border, is home to between 5,000 and 7,000 of the prized rhinos, according to NPR. It’s a prime target of rhino poachers, and 446 of 502 poaching arrests made in South Africa last year were made in Kruger National Park.
Poaching is dangerous business — and this isn’t the first time the animals have fought back. National Geographic reports that back in July of last year, “the weapons and body parts of three alleged would-be rhino poachers were found in Sibuya,” another South African game reserve. Those three suspected poachers were also eaten by lions.
In February of last year, a suspected poacher was killed in a private game reserve just outside the boundaries of Kruger National Park.