Lions eat South African poacher, leave only head

A suspected poacher was mauled and devoured by a pack of lions outside of Kruger National Park in South Africa, according to local police.

The body — or what was left of it — was discovered Saturday next to a loaded rifle in the bush at a private game park close to the national park near Hoedspruit, Limpopo province, Agence France-Presse reported. Limpopo province has been a hot bed of poaching activity in recent years.

“It seems the victim was poaching in the game park when he was attacked and killed by lions. They ate his body, nearly all of it, and just left his head and some remains,” Limpopo police spokesman Moatshe Ngoepe told AFP.

According to AFP, several lions were poisoned in Limpopo province last year by poachers who cut off their heads and paws.

The illegal trade in lion body parts has ramped up recently in Asian countries, according to Scientific American. While lion parts have always been used in Africa for everything from medicines to talismans for ceremonies, they have previously not been valued by China, whose black market has always preferred tiger parts.

But poaching and loss of habitat have caused tiger populations to plummet. With so few tigers left, Asian nations have had the adjust their appetite for exotic animal parts. As a top-of-the-food-chain predator, the lion apparently is an acceptable substitute.

Lion populations throughout Africa have declined at least 42 percent over the past two decades, and the big cats have all but disappeared from West Africa.

MORE: Big game hunter killed while sighting in lion

A Croatian trophy hunter was killed two weeks ago in an apparent accident on a “canned hunting” farm in South Africa.

Petro Jelinic, 75, had already shot one lion and was sighting in another when he was shot in the back and killed, according to Total Croatia News. Police are investigating the case as a possible involuntary manslaughter.

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