A big cat poacher has reportedly been killed and eaten by the pride of lions he was trying to hunt.
The suspected hunter was heard screaming for help as he was mauled and bitten to death by lions in the Ingwelala Private Nature Reserve in Hoespruit, near Phalaborwa in South Africa.
Authorities presume the man was hunting the lions, who left his head almost untouched, after a hunting rifle was found close to what was left of his body.
The man is yet to be formally named and police in Limpopo have requested help from the Department of Home Affairs to identify him.
A local worker said: ‘The head was still there but the lions had eaten most of the rest.
‘A scream was heard and the lions were scattered by the sound of gunshots but it was too late to do anything for him. He was eaten’.
‘The process of identifying this body has already commenced and it might be made easier as his head was amongst the remains found at the scene’, said
Police Lieutenant-Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe.
Poachers often target lions as the species are highly prized in areas such as the Far East, where they are used in traditional medicines. Parts of the animal, such as bones, skin and fur can fetch thousands from buyers.
British photographer Charlie Lynham, 59, said that two sets of footprints had been found next to the man’s remains.
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Lynham, who is originally from Liverpool but now lives near the reserve, said: ‘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.’
He added that the encounter could be ‘poetic justice’, if the victim’s intent was to kill the lions.