KENTON-ON-SEA, South Africa — Mother nature takes care of her own.
A group of rhino poachers was eaten by a pride of lions as they attempted to break into a South African game preserve to hunt for the endangered species, officials said.
At least three poachers made their way into the Sibuya Game Reserve sometime late Sunday, amed with a high-powered rifle and silencer, an axe, wire cutters, gloves and food supplies for several days.
The group had “all the hallmarks of a gang intent on killing rhino and removing their horns,” the reserve’s owner, Nick Fox, said in a post on Facebook.
At some point early the next morning a dog trained to sniff out poachers alerted her handler that something was amiss. But when the handler heard a “loud commotion coming from the lions,” she didn’t think much of it as it is not unusual to hear them hunting at night.
But what had really happened was that “they strayed into a pride of lions.”
“It’s a big pride so they didn’t have too much time,” Fox said. “We’re not sure how many there were – there’s not much left of them.”
It took until Tuesday for a field guide to discover what remained of the group, when he stumbled upon human remains, the gun and the poachers’ gear.
Officials had to tranquilize the lions in order to get to the remains.
“Clearly, the poachers had walked into a pride of six lions and some, if not all had been killed,” he said.
Officials used helicopters to see if anyone had gotten away and were hiding in the bush, but they found no sign of others.
In parts of Asia, rhino horn is erroneously believed to have aphrodisiac qualities and there has been a rise in poaching in Africa in recent years.
Nine rhinos have been killed by poachers in Eastern Cape province, where the reserve is located, this year alone. More than 7,000 have been killed in South Africa in the past decade.