Suspected poacher killed by elephant then eaten by lions

A suspected poacher was attacked and killed by an elephant before being eaten by a pride of lions in a national park in northeastern South Africa last week.

Officials with the Kruger National Park said the family of the man, who is believed to have gone into the park to poach a rhino, got a call from his partners saying he was killed by an elephant on Tuesday.

A search party was launched, but the body could not be located in the area that the family described.

Park rangers recovered what was left of the poacher's remains on Thursday.

"Indications found at the scene suggested that a pride of lions had devoured the remains leaving only a human skull and a pair of pants," a statement from the park said.

Four of the man's alleged accomplices have been arrested and are expected to appear in court.

Cecil and his pride of lions
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Cecil and his pride of lions
A young male lion of Cecil's pride disturbs a relaxing female lion. Hwange, Zimbabwe
A young male lion of Cecil's pride
A female lion and a lion cub of Cecil's pride walk through the long sun bleached grass. The adult lion has a tracking collar. Hwange, Zimbabwe.
Cecil the Lion at Hwange National Parks Ngweshla Pan area, Zimbabwe.
Cecil the iconic lion of Hwange National park with his pride
Cecil the Lion at Hwange National Parks Ngweshla Pan area, Zimbabwe.
A female lion of Cecil's pride looks back and scowls at an unknown lion. Hwange, Zimbabwe.
A female lion (called stumpy tail) of Cecil's pride looks up from drinking. Her belly is full from binging on a kill. Hwange, Zimbabwe

"Entering Kruger National Park illegally and on foot is not wise, it holds many dangers and this incident is evidence of that," park executive Glenn Phillips said in the statement.

Just days before the incident, park officials reported two rangers were attacked and injured by an elephant while conducting a routine patrol.

The two-million hectare park is one of the most popular game parks in the world — providing a home to hundreds of species of animals, including buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino.

South Africa's environment ministry said there were 769 rhino poaching incidents recorded in 2018 — 421 of them in the Kruger National Park. More than 360 alleged rhino poachers and 36 alleged rhino horn traffickers were arrested nationwide last year.

The animals are targeted for their horns — believed to have medicinal value in Asia, where they are sold on the black market.

In a record seizure Saturday, Hong Kong customs confiscated 82.5 kilograms of rhino horns from South Africa worth over $2 million.

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