A pride of lions in South Africa has been slaughtered by poachers so the body parts of the lions could be used in making black magic potions.
According to reports, 2 male lions and 2 lionesses were found dead after consuming poisoned meat.
The pride had their jaws and paws hacked off with machetes and were reportedly sold to witch doctors.
The poachers killed the pride of lions at the Rietvlei Nature Reserve, which is set in 3800 hectares.
The nature reserve is home to 2000 animals, which includes zebras, lions, hippos, cheetahs, and birds.
33-year-old Bradden Stevens, a head ranger, was distraught when he was called out after people found carcasses of big cats without jaws and paws.
The Rietvlei Nature Reserve had a similar incident in 2017, where River and Serabi, 2 lionesses, were poisoned.
Jarvis, Tau, Bashi, and Tawana, the remaining 4 lions in the Rietvlei Nature Reserve were moved to the center of Rietvlei, so poachers would have a hard time finding the big cats.
The poachers reportedly had knowledge of the Rietvlei Nature Reserve and managed to break into the compound of the lions.
The poachers reportedly threw poisoned meat towards the lions.
According to Stevens, the lions died in 15 minutes, which he said is a slow and painful death.
The poachers removed 16 paws and 4 jaws from the animals.
Stevens said, “My world has been turned upside down as Jarvis, Bashi, Tawana, and Tau were brutally murdered for body parts in what is known as a muti killing. I have worked with this pride of lions for 10 years in a world where they were not exploited for human greed or vanity but in a world that was part of responsible and ethical tourism.”
He added, “These last few days have been the darkest I have ever experienced and finding my lions who were my life in the way that I found them will live and haunt me for the rest of my life. 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.”
He continued, “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. My heart is breaking for my four boys and girls and I am in a very dark place right now.”
Dana Wannenburg, the chief of the Environment and Agriculture, said the killing of the 4 animals looks like an inside job.
Dana said the poachers that killed the lions knew how to get in and were well informed about the layout of the reserve.
Dana added, “We have heightened security with police patrolling the main roads in and around the reserve to boost existing security to maintain the safety of the animals such as rhinos.”
The South African Police Service confirmed that the big cats were poisoned before their jaws and paws were removed with machetes.
Talking about the pride, Ranger Stevens said, “The Pride of Rietvlei was made up or rescue lions and who could not have been released into the wild as they would be unable to feed properly and survive. We allowed no direct interaction between tourists and our lions and our job was to teach the tourists and children about the harm the ‘lion petting’ and ‘walking with lions’ industry does.”
He added, “It is so tragic that our magnificent pride met such a savage and cruel end at the hands of men looking for money.”
According to reports, a skeleton in South Africa can be bought for £1,000, but that same skeleton is worth £50,000.