Three suspected poachers mauled to death by lions in Eastern Cape

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A gang of poachers who broke into a South African game reserve to slaughter a herd of rhinos were attacked and eaten by a pride of hungry lions.

Sibuya reserve owner Nick Fox said in a statement on the reserve's Facebook page that the suspected poachers entered the reserve late on Sunday night or early on Monday morning.

"As it was already dark it was not possible to investigate the area until first light at which time we arranged for our vet to dart the entire pride of lions so that Police forensic teams assisted by our Anti-poaching unit could comb the immediate area for clues", Fox added. The next morning, warden guides found at least three sets of human remains near a high-powered rifle, gloves, wire cutters and survival equipment, tools generally associated with rhinoceros poaching activity.

The handler heard a loud commotion coming from the lions but this is not uncommon, Mr Fox said. Fox said the poachers' mangled remains are suspected to have been eaten by a pride of six lions who were on the reservation to protect the endangered and highly targeted rhinos who are hunted for their horns.

A rifle and an ax were also found at the lion camp.

"We found enough body parts and three pairs of empty shoes, which suggest to us that the lions ate at least three of them but it is thick bush and there could be more", said Nick Fox, the game reserve owner, according to the Mail.

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Nine rhinos were killed by poachers in Eastern Cape province, where the reserve is located, this year alone.

The popular game reserve, which covers 30 square miles, is also home to the rest of Africa's big five - elephant, buffalo and leopard.

"They were clearly intent on killing rhinos and cutting off their horns. At this stage, we're unable to speculate as to how the remains ended up at the scene".

Police have not identified the slain humans, and they're testing the rifle to determine whether they were poachers.

And in perhaps the most heartbreaking act of conservation, park rangers in some parts of Africa are preemptively removing rhinos' horns so that poachers won't be tempted to kill the animals for them.

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