Big cat poacher mauled and eaten by the very lions he was hunting

Big cat poacher mauled and eaten by the very lions he was hunting

In what some have called "poetic justice", a big cat poacher has been killed and eaten by a pride of lions he was hunting in a private reserve in South Africa. He was heard screaming for help at the Ingwelala Private Nature Reserve, in Hoedspruit outside Phalaborwa, but by time anyone arrived it was too late. They devoured most of his body before being chased off, leaving only his head untouched.

Authorities initially thought it was a worker at the reserve but their suspected victim turned up alive, so they realised he must have been a poacher. A hunting rifle was found close to the body, but no other documentation was found, so Limpopo Police called in the Department of Home Affairs to help them identify the man.

"The process of identifying this body has already commenced," Police Lieutenant-Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe said, "and it might be made easier as his head was amongst the remains found at the scene."

According to a local worker from a nearby nature reserve said that the area was lion territory, "The head was still there but the lions had eaten most of the rest," they said. "A scream was heard and the lions were scattered by the sound of gunshots but it was too late to do anything for him."

British wildlife photographer Charlie Lynham from Liverpool now lives close to the reserve, and has spent years taking photos of the pride that stays at the location. He arrived at the gates after the alarm was raised and paramedics had raced in when he was told that a poacher had been killed.

"It turns out it was not the resident pride that lives here responsible as they were on a buffalo kill at the time of the incident but a pride perhaps come over from the Kruger [National Park].

"Two .456 big game rifles and ammunition were found at the scene and that is the weapon of choice used by those hunting big game - especially elephant and rhino in the bush.

"I cannot say if it was poachers as the matter is under investigation but that is their weapon of choice and they usually work in groups of three and work under cover of darkness. Two sets of footprints have been found running away and obviously the dead and eaten man."

Lynham noted that there are anti-poaching groups but no one was there at the time to prevent the poachers from approaching the pride. But, as Lynham believes, "it would seem very possible that you have poetic justice here."

"Lions are not a particular danger in daylight but after dark, then that is another matter.

"It is purely speculation on my part but it would seem they either walked into a pride of lions in the darkness or they were stalked and attacked and a man was taken down and eaten.

"If you go out walking in the bush in the dark then I am afraid you are fair game in the wild and there is no way that anyone can attribute any blame to those lions for this kill."

It's unclear what happened to the other two potential poachers, but hopefully they've been scared away from trying this again.