A pride of lions eats a suspected illegal poacher—leaving only his head.
The incident happened in the province of Limpopo, South Africa, near Kruger National Park at the Hoedspruit private game park.
Moatshe Ngoepe, a local police spokesman, said they initially thought the man was a park employee and tractor driver who had gone missing.
However, they later identified the victim as a poacher after finding a loaded hunting rifle nearby.
Speaking to AFP, Ngoepe said:
"It seems the victim was poaching in the game park when [the lions] attacked and killed him."
"They ate his body, nearly all of it, and just left his head and some remains."
The spokesperson added:
"The process of identifying the deceased has already commenced... And it might be made possible by the fact that his head is amongst the remains that [police] found on the site."
Investigators also based their conclusions on the rise of poaching in the area.
A few months earlier, rangers found three male lions poisoned to death, with their paws and head cut off.
Lions Are Disappearing
As per African Wildlife Foundation, experts estimate there were as many as 200,000 wild lions in Africa 100 years ago.
Now, however, there are less than 25,000 lions in the wild. That's 80 percent decrease in their population.
In addition, in just two decades, the lion's population dropped by a staggering 43 percent.
Already threatened by human-wildlife conflict, habitat loss, and a decrease in prey, lions have a powerful threat that puts them at risk of extinction: the lion bone trade.
Lion bones are often used as traditional medicine, fortified bone wines and 'cakes.'
In medicinal use, these bones are believed to help joint pain and arthritis. However, there's no proof of any medical value in the bones.
These bones, along with claws and teeth, are also made into jewelry and trinkets that are thought to impart strength and vigor.
A Future for Lions
As frightening a time as it is for lions, there's still hope for them.
Many activists and animal conservation agencies are helping protect this important species through various initiatives.
For instance, they're ensuring lions have safe and suitable habitats by managing and expanding protected areas that offer sufficient space for lions and their prey.
Many countries are also banning the importation of animal bones in their territories.
Additionally, judicial systems and law enforcement officials are securing strict sentences for wildlife crimes.