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'Poacher' killed and eaten by pride of lions 'he was hunting' leaving only his HEAD at South African game reserve

Mirror logo Mirror 13-02-2018 Sophie Evans
a lion sitting in a field: Credits: Moment RF © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Moment RF

A suspected big cat poacher has been killed and eaten by the pride of lions he was allegedly hunting at a South African game reserve.

The man could be heard screaming for help as the beasts mauled him at the Ingwelala Private Nature Reserve in Limpopo province.

Although his cries raised the alarm, the lions quickly killed him and devoured most his body before being chased from the scene.

His head was the only part of him left untouched.

It is now the only means available to police of identifying the alleged poacher - who was carrying no documents when he was attacked.

A hunting rifle was also discovered close to what was left of the man's blood-drenched body. Officers believe the item belonged to him.

The incident comes just months after poacher Luteni Muhararukua was charged and killed by a rhino he was hunting for its horn in Namibia.

At first, police thought the man eaten by lions was a tractor driver who worked at the game reserve in Hoedspruit, outside Phalaborwa.

But when he turned up alive, they realised the deceased man may have been a poacher. Officers in Limpopo have now called in the Department of Home Affairs to help them to try to find out who the suspected hunter is.

Police Lieutenant-Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe said: "The person who we first thought it was believed to be an employee who was driving a tractor.

“It was thought his tractor broke down and the lions got him as he walked back to the compound but he was found to be alive.

“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”.

Lions kill up to 250 people a year in Africa.

A male typically weighs 190kg, while a female weighs 130kg. There are currently less than 20,000 of the animals left in the wild on the continent.

Their bones are worth a small fortune in the Far East, with a skeleton fetching up to £7,000 and the skin, £3,000. Teeth can fetch £500 each.

a house with a large rock © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited

The owner of the reserve, who identified himself as Josh, said he was told not to speak to the media because the police investigation was still under way.

A local worker at a nearby nature reserve described the area as lion territory, adding: "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".

Mr Ngoepe confirmed police were investigating the possibility that the man who was killed might have been a poacher after a hunting rifle was found near the scene.

"It would seem very possible that you have poetic justice here"

British wildlife photographer Charlie Lynham has spent years photographing the resident lion pride that lives at the game reserve.

The 59-year-old, who hails from Liverpool, arrived at the gates shortly after the alarm was raised and the paramedics had raced in.

He says he was told that the suspected poacher had been killed and that not a lot was left of him.

a lion standing on a dry grass field: Credits: Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty

He said: “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.

“It happened on the border of the Umbabat Game Reserve and it happened after dark and may have been on their reserve.

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

He added: "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.

“There were no anti-poaching groups in the area at the time and nobody was working there so although speculation 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.

a lion with its mouth open: Credits: Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty

“The other two it seems ran off and two .456 big game rifles were found and ammunition."

Mr Lynham now lives close to Ingwelala Game Reserve.

“I have been photographing the Ingwelala pride for years and was concerned in case it was them in case they got accused of attacking humans and there were calls to kill them," he said.

“But it was not our pride and was probably one from the Kruger that come over the border.

“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."

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