The lifeless body of what local authorities believe was a poacher that had gotten mauled by a pride of lions in the country of South Africa recently. Local reporting has established that the majority of the male body has been eaten. Thus, the body was very difficult to identify. But ammo and a hunting rifle was discovered nearby.
This male body had been found within the borders of the Ingwelala Private Nature Reserve, which is a private game reserve that is located near the famous and popular Kruger National Park, located in northeastern region of South Africa. Since this man had been supposedly intruding upon the lands of the reserve and discover with weapons in its possession, local authorities feel that he was there to poach.
Whether or not he had gone there to poach lions could not be determined without some more evidence. Local media outlet Sowetan Live quoted a reserve employee who described the area as “lion territory.”
What was the Poacher’s Target?
This particularly region has been traditionally noted for high levels of rhino poaching, and rhinos have always been a more profitably animal to hunt illegally. In the year 2017, rhino poaching in this region had declined slightly. The Kruger region had witnessed a huge increase from 13 rhinos that were murdered in the year 2007 to over 1,000 rhinos killed in year 2014. Within many regions of Asia, the rhino’s horn is in very high demand, where it has been used as an (ineffective) type of alternative medicine and is also carved into forms of art.
Michael ‘t Sas-Rolfes has studied the market influences that pertain to poaching from the University of Oxford and happened to be in South Africa whenever this body had been discovered.
“If you look at the economics of poaching, these guys are taking a risk. It’s got to be worth their while,” he commented. “The probability [of being caught] and penalty is about the same… but the price for lion body parts is way lower than rhino horn.”
Poachers in this area have also been known to hunt for elephant ivory or bush meat.
Whenever lions have been poached, Sas-Rolfes claims that it is sometimes just a revenge killing or even a matter of an opportunistic situation.
“The body parts taken are typically teeth and claws. At the moment, it isn’t a huge epidemic,” he added, and he also pointed out that the market for lion fangs could actually be increasing. But he is quick to add that he does not want to label lion parts as being more profitable since this perception can actually end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In regards to the lions that were poached within the region, many of those were killed at reserves and sanctuaries.
During an interview last fall, Paul Funston, who comes from the big cat conservation group called Panthera has speculated that the ongoing legal trade for captive lion parts may be stirring up wild demand. Since the year 2016, the poaching of lions has been slowly rising, but rising continuously. Many times, lion parts are often found right along with rhino parts.