Suspected poacher killed by elephant and then eaten by lions

A lion relaxes on the banks of the Luvuvhu river in Kruger National Park South Africa

Suspected poacher killed by elephant and then eaten by lions

A poacher hunting endangered rhinos in South Africa's Kruger national park is believed to be trampled by an elephant before a pride of lions devoured his body.

The four suspects told police that an elephant surprised the men while they allegedly attempted an illegal hunt at the game reserve.

The victim's family contacted the park's ranger service who launched a search on foot last Wednesday (April 4).

Rangers with Kruger National Park (KNP) in South Africa say that the remains of a suspected poacher have been recovered from the reserve on Thursday.

The family of the man was notified by the other poachers that he was killed last Tuesday by an elephant at Kruger National Park. The remains were discovered at the Crocodile Bridge section of the park, which is said be known for housing a high concentration of lion prides, according to the National Post.

Kruger National Park managing executive Glenn Phillips offered his condolences to the relatives of the deceased.

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
Suspected poacher killed by elephant and then eaten by lions

South Africa, which is home to nearly 80% of the world's rhinos, has been hit hard by poaching in recent years - with more than 1,000 rhinos killed illegally each year in the country between 2013 and 2017, before the figure fell to 769 last year.

Three other men, who are understood to have been the man's accomplices, have since been arrested and are in police custody.

Only four of the men left alive. "It holds many dangers and this incident is evidence of that", he said.

On Friday, the suspects appeared at the Komatipoort magistrates' court and faced multiple charges, including conspiracy to poach, possession of ammunition and firearms without a license, and trespassing, said South African Police Service.

Rhino horn is worth about $9,000 per pound in Asia, driving a lucrative and illicit trade.

South Africa is home to almost 80 per cent of the world's rhinos, according to Save the Rhino group, with more than 1,000 killed each year between 2013 and 2017. In September, the department announced that six men - including two syndicate leaders, two police officers and a former police officer - had been arrested for trafficking in rhino horns.

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