JOHANNESBURG — At least two rhino poachers were eaten by lions on a South African game reserve, the owner of the lodge said on Thursday.
A ranger taking guests at the Sibuya Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape on a safari drive on Tuesday afternoon discovered human remains close to a pride of lions.
"We suspect two were killed, possibly three," Sibuya owner Nick Fox said.
An ax and three pairs of shoes and gloves were found later when police and an anti-poaching unit arrived. The lions had been heard making a commotion in the early hours of Monday.
"We thought they must have been rhino poachers but the ax confirmed it," Fox said. "They use the rifle to shoot the animal and the ax to remove the horn."
"As it was already dark it was not possible to investigate the area until first light at which time we arranged for our vet to dart the entire pride of lions so that Police forensic teams assisted by our Anti-poaching unit could comb the immediate area for clues," Fox wrote in a post on the reserve's Facebook page. "At this stage it is not clear exactly how many poachers were killed but the Police forensic team continue to investigate."
South Africa is home to more than 80 percent of the world's rhinos, whose population has been depleted by poaching for buyers in Vietnam and China where rhino horn is coveted as an ingredient in traditional medicine.
More than 1,000 rhinos were killed in South Africa last year.