April 6, 2019 4:56 pm
Updated: April 6, 2019 11:32 pm

Suspected rhino poacher killed by elephant, eaten by lions in South Africa: authorities

A lion relaxes on the banks of the Luvuvhu river in Kruger National Park, South Africa, July 21, 2010.

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South African authorities say they have recovered the remains of a suspected rhinoceros poacher who was believed to have been killed by an elephant before his body was devoured by lions.

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The victim’s family say they were informed of his death by fellow members of a poaching gang that entered Kruger National Park in northeastern South Africa on Tuesday, South African National Parks said in a release.

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The family then called state police, who sent a search party to the area even as four other poachers from the group were arrested.

The man’s remains were found on Thursday — but not before a pride of lions got to them.

“Indications found at the scene suggested that a pride of lions had devoured the remains, leaving only a human skull and a pair of pants,” park authorities said.

An elephant walks through the bush at the Southern African Wildlife College on the edge of Kruger National Park in South Africa, Sept. 30, 2016.

AP Photo/Denis Farrell

The head of Kruger National Park expressed his condolences to the family of the deceased suspected poacher, saying that his death was a tragic reminder of the dangers of illegal entry into the park.

“Entering Kruger National Park illegally and on foot is not wise, it holds many dangers and this incident is evidence of that,” said the park’s managing executive Glenn Phillips.

“It is very sad to see the daughters of the deceased mourning the loss of their father — and worse still, only being able to recover very little of his remains.”

The four arrested individuals will appear in court in due course, officials said.

A helicopter takes off from near the carcass of a poached and mutilated white rhino that was found on the banks of a river at Kruger National Park, Sept. 12, 2014.

MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images

South Africa is believed to have around 80 per cent of the world’s rhino population of over 20,000, making it an epicentre of the global poaching crisis.

Poachers killed 769 rhinos in South Africa in 2018, according to the country’s environmental affairs ministry. That figure represents a 25 per cent drop from 2017.

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Rhinos are targeted by poachers for their horns, which fetch big money from black markets in countries like Vietnam, where they are prized for their purported ability to cure health ailments ranging from cancer to erectile dysfunction.

There’s no evidence that rhino horn, made of the same substance as human fingernails, actually holds any medicinal value.

A Vietnamese woman grinds rhino horn with water in her apartment in Hanoi, Vietnam, March 13, 2012. She said she ingests the liquid after drinking too much alcohol or when suffering from allergies.

AP Photo/Na Son Nguyen

Rhino horn is also bought and consumed as a symbol of wealth, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

There is an international ban on the trade in rhino horn.

— With files from Reuters

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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