The human remains found at a nature reserve in South Africa are believed to be those of poachers. Evidently, the alleged poachers walked into the lions’ pride in their attempt to kill the reserve’s rhinos for their horns.

Early Morning Commotion

At about 4:30 a.m. on July 2, one anti-poaching dog at the Sibuya Game Reserve in South Africa alerted its handler that there might be a problem nearby. At about the same time, the handler heard a commotion coming from the vicinity of the lions and assumed that this was the cause of the dog’s disturbance.

However, at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 3, field guides alerted the Anti-Poaching Unit (APU) of the presence of possible human remains and other items in the lions’ vicinity. Upon inspection, the owner of the reserve, Nick Fox, along with the APU, discovered the human remains near the lions’ vicinity as well as a backpack with food and water, wire cutters, gloves, an ax, and a high-powered rifle with a silencer among other things. According to Fox, these items serve as evidence that the individuals’ likely intention was to kill the reserve’s rhinos and take their horns.

“Clearly, the poachers had walked into a pride of six lions and some, if not all, had been killed,” said Fox in a statement.

Police and anti-poaching authorities were alerted to the incident, and the lions were darted in order to give way to police investigations. So far, it is not clear how many were killed or if any had escaped, but it is believed that the illegal entry as well as the attack likely occurred some time between Sunday evening and the early hours of Monday.

Further investigations on the deaths are underway.

South Africa’s Poaching Problem

In 2017 alone, over a thousand rhinos were illegally killed for the rhino horn trade. Although it was the third year in a row that the illegal rhino killings dropped, the deaths remain to be a major issue, especially in South Africa, where almost 80 percent of the world’s rhinos live.

What truly drives the poaching problem is the demand for rhino horn, which, in parts of Asia, is believed to have certain medicinal or drug values from curing cancer to being a club drug. The truth is, there is little to no evidence to back these claims, as rhino horn is mostly made of keratin, which is the same material that is found in hair and nails.

That said, rhinos aren’t the only animals to be threatened by poaching. Other animals such as African elephants and big cats are also threatened by the illegal killings and trade. Just last May, a wildlife reserve owner mourned the death of four big cats that were poisoned by poachers. In this case, the owner believes that the poachers attempted to harvest the cats’ claws, heads, and teeth, likely to be sold for use in black magic.

Such illegal practices, if not stopped, may push the animals on the brink of extinction, which is why governments, as well as many wildlife organizations, continue to fight poaching and aim to stop the illegal trade for such animal items altogether.

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