When authorities found the body of a man mauled and eaten by lions in South Africa last Friday, they were confident that it was a suspected poacher. Although the man’s body had been mostly eaten, National Geographic reports, locals did find a hunting rifle and high-caliber ammunition near his body, confirming their suspicion that he was illegally hunting wild game. And his head was left behind by the lions.
“It seems the victim was poaching in the game park when he was attacked and killed by lions,” Limpopo police spokesman Moatshe Ngoepe told AFP. “They ate his body, nearly all of it, and just left his head and some remains.”
The suspected poacher was found inside Ingwelala Private Nature Reserve. This protected area houses the famous Kruger National Park and is located in the northeastern section of South Africa. The man was illegally intruding on protected lands and was heavily armed. Therefore, authorities are confident he was there to kill animals illegally.
Because nature, in the form of a pride of lions, killed the man before he could testify to the truth, authorities are unable to confirm or deny, without more evidence, whether he was trying to poach lions individually. But he was in an area called “lion territory,” a reserve employee told the local news outlet Sowetan Live.
The region sees high levels of rhino poaching. The man could easily have been after those majestic quadrupeds. They bring poachers a significant profit but are illegal to hunt. Although rhino poaching declined in 2017, the creatures are still being illegally killed.
Kruger saw increases in rhino poaching over the last decade. In 2007, only about 13 rhinos were poached whereas more than a 1,000 were killed in 2014. Rhino horns are a favorite item in parts of Asia, where poachers will sell it for high prices. Although the rhino horn has been proven to be an ineffective form of alternative medicine, it is still used.
Michael ‘t Sas-Rolfes studies the economics of poaching at the University of Oxford. He was in South Africa when the suspected poacher’s body was found mauled by lions.
“If you look at the economics of poaching, these guys are taking a risk. It’s got to be worth their while,” he said. “The probability [of being caught] and penalty is about the same… but the price for lion body parts is way lower than rhino horn.”
When lions are hunted, it is usually because they were found in a vulnerable situation.
“The body parts taken are typically teeth and claws. At the moment, it isn’t a huge epidemic,” Sas-Rolfes said.
Lion fang prices are increasing, he claims. But he does not want people to think that this has anything to do with governments’ efforts to protect lions.
Some people believe that this was an act of karma. That if this man weren’t trying to kill the wild animals, he wouldn’t have been killed.
Do you think this man was in Africa trying to hunt protected animals illegally? What do you think about what happened to the poacher?