A pride of lions killed and ate suspected rhino poachers at a South African game reserve this week, the reserve's owner said in a statement.
A group of poachers, likely three, were believed to have entered the Sibuya Game Reserve in Kenton, on the southern coast of South Africa, early Monday morning armed with the "hallmarks" of rhino poaching, including a powerful rifle with a silencer, reserve owner Nick Fox said in the statement posted to Facebook.
But they were apparently confronted by a pride of lions around 4:30 a.m. before they could reach the rhinos, something an anti-poaching dog may have detected — its handler heard a commotion coming from the pride of lions, which is not unusual, and dismissed the dog's alert, Fox said.
Officials on Tuesday found human remains, along with a high-powered rifle and silencer, an ax, gloves, wire cutters and the remains of a backpack holding food and water, Fox said. He called a local anti-poaching team and the police.
"Clearly, the poachers had walked into a pride of six lions and some, if not all had been killed," he wrote.
Fox told Newsweek that "the only body part we found was one skull and one bit of pelvis, everything else was completely gone," and that he hopes the sad incident sends a "message" to other poachers.
A police spokesman said that recovered remains were being scanned for forensic testing, according to The Herald of South Africa.
Rhino poaching in South Africa rapidly increased from 2007 to 2014 due to increased demand for their horns in Asia. The horns may be ground down or shaved, dissolved into boiling water and consumed in a traditional Chinese medicine treatment for many ailments, according to the non-profit Save the Rhino.
Last year, 1,028 rhinos were poached in South Africa, a slight decline from 2016, according to a report from the South African Department of Environmental Affairs.