Predator turned into prey when a group of poachers became a meal for a pride of lions, the owner of a game reserve says.
Nick Fox, who oversees the Sibuya Game Reserve in South Africa, told The Daily Express that staff discovered a gruesome scene on Tuesday night that included "body parts and three pairs of empty shoes."
A handler and his anti-poaching dog had been walking in that same area at around 4:30 a.m. on Monday, according to a post on the reserve's Facebook page. The dog heard something and attempted to alert its handler, who brushed it off as the usual sound lions make.
The following day, a field guide noticed what appeared to be human remains near the lions. Officials had to tranquilize six lions so they could obtain the remains and items on the scene, police told BBC.
Along with bones and bloodied body parts, staff found a hunting rifle, an axe, wire cutters and food supplies, according to The Herald Live.
This discovery led Fox to guess that the victims were in fact hunting for rhinos at the Sibuya Game Reserve, which is around 30 square miles and host to just under 400 bird species and other bigger animals such as elephants and leopards.
“They came heavily armed with hunting rifles and axes which we have recovered and enough food to last them for several days so we suspect they were after all of our rhinos here," Fox told The Daily Express. "But the lions are our watchers and guardians and they picked the wrong pride and became a meal."
Police spokesperson Captain Mali Govender told The Herald Live that police are examining the rifles found at the scene to see if they have been used in other poaching crimes. The identity of the victims is still unknown.
Fox told The Daily Express that the items "suggest to us that the lions ate at least three of them but it is thick bush and there could be more."
He added that it's unknown how many poachers there were, as "there's not much left of them," according to BBC.
Poachers killed three rhinos on the reserve in 2016, Fox told Eyewitness News. He said he's happy it didn't turn out that way again.
"We were fortunate that it didn’t happen this time," he said. "All our rhinos, we touch wood, are safe. We got lucky, they got unlucky.”