A suspected poacher in a South African game reserve has met a grisly end.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on April 8, 2019

The South African Police Service said the alleged poacher and four others had been taking part in an illegal rhino hunt when he was trampled to death by an elephant.

Before authorities could retrieve his body, a pride of lions found him and devoured his remains. Only a skull and a pair of trousers were left at the scene.

The deceased’s four accomplices have since been arrested. Two were found carrying rifles and ammunition.

Poachers target rhino horns for traditional medicine, weapons

Glenn Phillips, the Managing Executive of the park, offered his condolences to the man’s loved ones. “It is very sad to see the daughters of the diseased mourning the loss of their father, and worse still, only being able to recover very little of his remains,” he said in a statement.

Phillips also noted that the alleged poacher had illegally entered the parklands and this was “not wise”. “It holds many dangers and this incident is evidence of that,” he said.

Poaching has been rife in the area, with rhino items a particular target. Just two days ago, Hong Kong customs officials seized HK$16.5 million (US$2.1 million) worth of rhino horns en route to Malaysia.

Poachers continue to target the animals as their horns are valued in traditional medicine. In affluent enclaves of Vietnam, many believe the horns can cure cancer. There has been no scientific evidence to support this claim.

The horns are also in demand in Yemen, where they are fashioned into jambiya, a kind of curved dagger.

Poaching has been scaled back since 2014, when more than 1,200 rhinos were killed in South Africa but they remain an endangered species.

A report from South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs in September 2018 found that more than 500 rhinos had been killed by a poacher in South Africa that year to date. This number represented a 26% fall from the total of 691 that had been hunted in the same period in 2017.

Authorities have introduced a mobile radar system to alert officials when poachers are in the area and say it has been effective in some regions.

Efforts to curb rhino poaching

The majority of the world’s rhino population (around 80%) is based in South Africa, though there have been recent efforts to create sanctuaries for the animals abroad, including a breeding program in Texas.

As of last year, the Kruger National Park, located in the Northeast of South Africa, has around 5,000 rhinos, as well as large numbers of wild buffalo, lions, leopards and elephants.

A number of non-government organisations, including Sorai, an initiative by South African born English cricketer Kevin Pietersen, are working to raise awareness of rhino poaching and ultimately stamp out the practice.

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