The 30 square miles of nature known as the Sibuya Game Reserve is located in the South African province of Eastern Cape. Here, you can see the five biggest game animals in Africa: lions, rhinos, elephants, buffalos, and leopards. It is also home to a vast diversity of other animals. Because of this, over the last few years, the reserve has faced several intrusions by poachers that are attracted to the animal selection it hosts.
Recently, a horrific incident has occurred that some are calling an act of nature’s karma. A pack of hungry lions devoured a group of poachers who broke into the reserve to hunt rhinos. Investigators are not entirely sure how many people were killed because so little of their remains were left. They believe it was three men because they found three sets of shoes and gloves; also because typical rhino poaching groups are made up of three people.
Nick Fox, the parks owner, estimates that they were eaten alive by the pride of lions sometime between the evening of July 1 and the early morning of July 2; thus giving the predators many hours to feast, which is why so little of the poachers bodies remained. Fox said:
“The only body part we found was one skull and one bit of pelvis, everything else was completely gone.”
Fox guesses that the incident probably happened around 4:30 a.m. on July 2 when one of the reserve’s anti-poaching dogs gave a warning that something was wrong. According to the dog handler, this was typical behavior for that time of the morning so he ignored the dog and didn’t bother to investigate further. Then, later on in the day one of the reserve’s rangers making rounds stumbled upon the bloodied remains. The police were immediately notified.
When the police arrived, they searched the grounds together with some Sibuya employees. Poaching gear was found scattered throughout the bushes, including a high-powered rifle with a silencer, an ax, and wire cutters. All of these items are a surefire sign of rhino poachers, Fox said.
Police spokeswoman Captain Mali Govender explained:
“We do not know identities but firearms have been taken by the police and will be sent to the ballistics laboratory to see if they have been used in poaching before.”
Upon finding all this evidence, they called in a search party and enlisted the help of a helicopter to scout for any survivors. None has been found thus far. There have also been detectives investigating to determine the exact number of people eaten, but they haven’t found anything regarding that yet either. Fox said:
“We found enough body parts and three pairs of empty shoes which suggest to us that the lions ate at least three of them but it is thick bush and there could be more. They came heavily armed with hunting rifles and axes which we have recovered and enough food to last them for several days so we suspect they were after all of our rhinos here.”
Fox hopes that this incident, although sad as it is, will send a message to other poachers who risk their lives by illegally hunting game in his reserve. He concludes:
“Whilst we have saddened at any loss of life the poachers came here to kill our animals and this sends out a very clear message to any other poachers that you will not always be the winner. The lions are our watchers and guardians and they picked the wrong pride and became a meal.”
Fox told Newsweek that the reserve had received a large number of phone calls from people concerned about the fate of the lions. “They won’t be killed,” he said. “The status quo will continue.”
The Rhino Reality
There are only about 29,000 rhinos left in the world. South Africa is home to around 80 percent of them. Their numbers are dropping dramatically every year. According to the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, 1,028 rhino were poached across South Africa in 2017 alone.
The reason poachers are so desperate to get their hands on Rhino horns is because of how much money they are worth. They are in high demand in Southeast Asia due to the belief that the horn contains strong medical properties.
The value of one horn can be up to $300,000 dollars! On the South African black market they are worth less, with white rhino horns selling for up to just $3,000, which is still a decent amount of money for a poacher. In other areas of the world, like China, they use the horns in carvings for artwork. The sad thing is, these claims that the horns hold strong medical properties are not even proven to be true.