Out of Africa: Vigilante Lions Eat Three Suspected Rhino Poachers

by Zoe

Hunting wild game is a popular travel activity in Africa, but the chilling death of at least three illegal rhino poachers, reported in the New York Times this week, is a reminder that humans are not always at the top of the food chain, particularly in Africa.

A lion pride devoured three men suspected of poaching rhinoceros in South Africa. Image by Martin Falbisoner | Wikimedia Commons

A staff member at the Sibuya Game Reserve in South Africa noticed a strange object on the ground last Friday. At first he thought it looked like a soccer ball, but looking up close he saw it was a human skull.

According to The Times, rangers and police officers confirmed the next morning that as many as three suspected rhino poachers had been killed by lions in the game reserve.

Officials are still not sure exactly how many people were killed, but the human remains were found alongside instruments ttypically used by poachers to kill rhinos and remove their horns, according to a press release from Nick Fox, the park’s owner.


South Africa is home to more than 80% of the world’s rhino population, per The Times. But rampant poaching and habitat loss mean these rare animals mostly reside in reserves and national parks. Since 2008, more than 7,000 rhinos have been hunted illegally, with 1,028 killed in 2017, according to the South African Department of Environmental Affairs.
At $9000 per pound in Asia, Rhino horn rakes in more than the average yearly income for most rural people. As long as consumers continue demand this rare medicinal ingredient and status symbol, the illicit trade will continue as well.
According to the NYT, people suspected of being poachers have been killed by lions in South Africa before. In February, a man’s mauled body was found in a reserve near Kruger National Park.
Annette Hübschle, a researcher at the University of Cape Town’s Center of Criminology, says rhino poaching has been expanding from Kruger National Park, in northeastern South Africa, because of militarized anti-poaching crackdowns.
“You now have traveling poaching gangs,” Dr. Hübschle said, adding, “Rhino horn has huge value, so even low-level poachers can make a lot of money.”
The news of poacher deaths, Dr. Hübschle says, is often received gleefully, but marks persistent structural inequality and the ripple effects of displacement committed under  colonialism and apartheid.
Julian Rademeyer, a project leader at Traffic, a nonprofit group that monitors illegal wildlife trades, says it is doubtful these deaths will deter other poachers. “The middlemen will simply up the price they are prepared to pay, and more young men will line up to kill or die.”

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1 comment

pho tastee July 8, 2018 - 8:19 am

i m rooting the lions


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