Three unlucky poachers have been eaten after breaking into South African nature reserve

Three unlucky poachers have been eaten after breaking into South African nature reserve

You won't find many people in the world more despised than animal poachers, who often sneak into animal reserves, attacking unsuspecting (and often endangered) creatures to sell their parts for money.

In March this year, a Russian trophy hunter made the news after shooting a large bull elephant dead in Zimbabwe. The event was captured in a painting by Jim Carrey shortly afterwards, depicting an elephant goring poachers - along with the hashtag #teamelephant.

Martin Pieters, the ex-chairman of the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association, was joined by an unnamed Russian hunter on what was technically a legal expedition. However, not all expeditions like this are legal - with various groups conducting raids on nature reserves in the dead of night to avoid detection.

On Tuesday, a group of such poachers broke into The Sibuya Game Reserve near Kenton-on-Sea, in South Africa. The men were hunting for rhinos, hoping to take their horns and sell the ivory, but were attacked by a pride of lions.

Staff found hunting rifles with silencers, wire cutters, and an axe used for removing rhino horns. A veterinarian was required to tranquillise six lions so that the police could recover the remains, which included a head and other body parts, along with three pairs of shoes. Nick Fox, the 60-year-old owner of the reserve, 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.

"They were clearly intent on killing rhinos and cutting off their horns.

"But the lions are our watchers and guardians and they picked the wrong pride and became a meal.

"Whilst we are 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."

Police spokeswoman Captain Mali Govender confirmed that the remains had been found in the lion camp and explained how detectives are currently trying to figure out exactly how many have been injured at this time, as it may be more than the three found so far.

"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," she said.

The game reserve is apparently very popular, and covers 30 square miles of land, featuring elephants, buffalo and leopards, along with the rhinos and lions. In 2016, they lost three rhinos when poachers came into the park, shot them dead and cut off their horns - now it seems there has been some karmic justice.