Poachers Kill Lions And Hack Off Body Parts At South African Ranch
Warning - this article contains images which some readers may find distressing
Police have released horrific images of lions killed by poachers who then hacked off parts of the animals to take away with them.
It follows similar killings where the dismembered body parts of lions are taken by poachers, which some believe they go on to sell to traditional healers for use in 'magic' potions.
Menno Parsons, who owns the Sunward Ranch in South Africa, found one lion and four lionesses dead, claiming they had been fed poisoned chicken, before they had their paws and parts of their heads removed.
The Sunward Ranch, which offers lion experiences for underprivileged children, is protected by electrified fences, but it's believed the poachers chucked the poisoned chicken carcasses over the fence and waited while the lions suffered for up to half an hour before dying.
The poachers then appear to have cut through the fences and set about the lions' bodies with machetes to hack away body parts to be sold off as 'muti' - potions made by traditional healers.
Mr Parsons said: "When you get the phone call telling you that your lions have not just been killed by poachers but have been butchered, I tell you nothing prepares you.
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"I fly helicopters on anti-poaching patrols and go after poachers who are on the run to help out the police and security agencies, but you never actually expect it is going to happen to you.
"I have looked after lions for 10 years and they are like a family to me. I am not afraid of these poachers and I have got guys with me and we will be going out there looking for them."
Police spokesman Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said: "It would appear a fence has been cut to gain entry after the lions had been fed with chicken carcasses laced with poison.
"The lions were discovered at 8am on Wednesday and some of them were found decapitated and some had their paws cut off and their jaws and teeth removed."
An investigation has been launched into the incident, which is the third attack on a pride of lions since October.
A fellow reservation owner told the Daily Mail the attacks are 'happening all over the country' but the culprits never seem to be captured by police.
Last month, four lions were butchered at the Rietvlei Nature Reserve near Pretoria, their jaws and paws were hacked off with machetes.
Head ranger Bradden Stevens said: "I am convinced these lion parts do not go far but find their way into local 'muti' markets - with 'muti' being body parts that are used to make traditional medicines or magic potions.
"These markets need to be shut down and those who come into game reserves where these magnificent animals are safe and butcher them in such a way need to severely punished."
Featured Image Credit: Limpopo Police