Poacher trampled by elephant and eaten by lions
South African rangers say skull and trousers are all that remained of illegal rhino hunter
A would-be poacher has met a grisly end in South Africa’s most famous national park, where he was trampled to death by an elephant before being devoured by a pack of lions.
Police Brigadier Leonard Hlathi said that the man and his accomplices had entered Kruger National Park (KNP), a protected big game reserve on the country’s eastern border, to illegally hunt rhino.
“Suddenly an elephant attacked and killed one of them,” Hlathi said in a statement.
The remaining poachers later told police that they dragged their companion’s body to the nearest roadside, where they hoped it would be found by passersby, before fleeing.
The park’s communications manager, Isaac Phaahla, told South African newpaper Times Live that rangers launched a land-and-air search for the hunter’s remains after receiving a tip-off from one of his relatives on Tuesday evening.
“The team resumed the search on Thursday morning, with further information provided [by] four of the deceased’s alleged accomplices, who had been arrested during the previous evening,” Phaahla said.
"During this search, which was boosted with a further complement of field rangers, the remains of a body were discovered.”
Closer inspection revealed that the trampled man had been eaten by other wild animals after his death.
“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,” said Phaahla.
An inquest has been opened to establish the events around the poacher’s death.
KNP managing executive Glenn Phillips said that the fatality was a reminder that illegally entering the protected reserve “is not wise”.
“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,” he said.
Brigadier Hlathi said that police investigating the incident have arrested three men aged between 26 and 35 and seized two .375 hunting rifles and ammunition.
The trio “appeared in the Komatipoort Magistrate’s Court on Friday on charges of possession of firearms and ammunition without a licence, conspiracy to poach as well as trespassing”, South Africa’s News24 site reports. They will appear again on 12 April.
Rhino horns are “more valuable than cocaine in parts of the world”, owing to their use in traditional Chinese medicine as a supposed aphrodisiac, according to CNN.