Lions Eat Suspected Poacher Who Died After Elephant Attack

By Richard Szabo
Richard Szabo
Richard Szabo
Richard Szabo is an award-winning journalist with more than 12 years' experience in news writing at mainstream and niche media organizations. He has a specialty in business, tourism, hospitality, and healthcare reporting.
April 7, 2019 Updated: April 7, 2019

A pride of lions have eaten a suspected poacher who died from an elephant attack in the South African wilderness.

The man is believed to have entered Kruger National Park, 380 kilometers (236 miles) east of Pretoria, on April 1 with four other men who had allegedly planned to poach rhinos.

Authorities confirmed that an elephant attacked and killed one of the men on April 2.

“His accomplices claimed to have carried his body to the road so that passers by could find it in the morning,” the South African Police Service said in a public statement. “They then vanished from the park.”

The survivors left the park and contacted a relative of the deceased with the bad news.

“The family then called Skukuza Regional Ranger Don English who, after assuring the family that he would do everything possible to recover the remains and bring them closure, arranged a search party,” South African National Parks (SANS) said in a public statement.

Kruger National Park Rangers and police from Komatipoort and Skukuza helped search for the man’s remains on April 3. Rangers searched on foot while police conducted an aerial search, but could not find the body the same day due to failing light.

By the time a bigger search team found the body on April 4 in the park’s south eastern Crocodile Bridge section, it had already been devoured.

“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,” SANS said.

Police arrested three men aged between 26 and 35 within the KaMhlushwa and Komatipoort precincts as part of a joint intelligence operation to search for the dead poacher’s accomplices.

“During the operation, two .375 hunting rifles and ammunition were seized,” police said.

The surviving suspects appeared at Komatipoort Magistrate’s Court on April 5, charged with trespassing, conspiracy to poach, and possessing firearms and ammunition without a licence.

“The court remanded them in custody and [they] will reappear at the same court on 12 April 2019, pending a formal bail application,” police said. “An inquest was [also] opened in connection with the dead suspect.”

Park Managing Executive Glenn Phillips extended his condolences to the family of the deceased and thanked all who helped the search party.

“It is very sad to see the daughters of the diseased mourning the loss of their father, and worse still, only being able to recover very little of his remains,” he said. “Entering Kruger National Park illegally and on foot is not wise, it holds many dangers and this incident is evidence of that.”

Aphrodisiac Myth

The African rhino is sometimes targeted for its horn because people who practice modern Chinese medicine have been led to believe that the horn is a potent aphrodisiac. In some parts of the world today, it is worth more than cocaine, according to CNN.

But according to a 1931 translation of the Ming dynasty scientist and physician Li Shizhen and his Compendium of Materia Medica, written in 1597, rhino horn was prescribed for almost everything except to boost a failing libido, according to a multiple reports.

“In fact, traditional Chinese medicine never has used rhinoceros horn as an aphrodisiac,” Eric Dinerstein, who served as the chief scientist at the WWF for 25 years, wrote in his 2003 book The Return of the Unicorns: The Natural History and Conservation of the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros. “This is a myth of the Western media and in some parts of Asia is viewed as a kind of anti-Chinese hysteria.”

Conservation researcher Alexandra Kennaugh wrote in a 2015 report that there are two distinct rhino horn markets in China: a luxury market and a traditional medicine market. The report found that of the 2,000 Chinese surveyed, those who valued rhino horn for its medicinal properties—mostly for fever or pain relief—were less willing to purchase horn as prices rose. It went on to explain that those who valued rhino horn as a rare luxury good and status symbol were the ones willing to pay top dollar.

Certain individuals in this group of wealthy business elites were also the ones rumored to believe that rhino horn can “cure impotence and enhance sexual performance,” Scientific American reported. This is thought to be a significant factor in driving modern demand. Rhino horn is also reportedly being used in social circles of the new rich in Vietnam and China, some of whom have become rich through corruption, for use as a status symbol and party drug.

"Devastating as it is to the welfare and survival of rhino species, the Vietnamese market for rhino horns is both faddish and reversible."

Posted by World Animal Protection US on Monday, March 6, 2017

Critically Endangered

The black rhino is considered to be critically endangered since its population in the wild dropped from about 65,000 in the year 1970 to just 2,400 in 25 years later, according to the park. Conservation efforts have boosted their numbers, and the world’s remaining 5,000 or more black rhinos live mostly in South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, and Zimbabwe.

At the park in 2016 there were between 349 and 465 black rhinos and between 6,600 and 7,800 white rhinos, which also suffer from poaching according to South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs.

The park is classified as an intensive protection zone, and the South African government tries to deter poaching through its aircraft fleet, dogs, special rangers, and environmental crime investigation unit.

Of the 680 poaching and trafficking arrests made in 2016 by police, 417 were in and around the park, the department said.

Richard Szabo
Richard Szabo
Richard Szabo is an award-winning journalist with more than 12 years' experience in news writing at mainstream and niche media organizations. He has a specialty in business, tourism, hospitality, and healthcare reporting.