On 5 July 2018, the Sibuya Game Reserve, a wildlife preserve and tourist resort in South Africa, put out a press release alerting the public to the discovery of human remains on their property. The Reserve believes, based on the supplies found in the vicinity, that the remains belonged to a group of rhinoceros poachers who accidentally crossed paths with pride of lions:
Sometime during the night of Sunday 1st and early hours of Monday 2nd July 2018, a group of at least three poachers entered Sibuya Game Reserve. They were armed with, amongst other things, a high powered rifle with a silencer, an axe, wire cutters and had food supplies for a number of days — all the hallmarks of a gang intent on killing rhino and removing their horns.
At about 4.30 pm on Tuesday 3rd July one of our field guides on game drive alerted the Anti-Poaching Unit that there appeared to be human remains as well as other items in the immediate vicinity of the lions. Clearly, the poachers had walked into a pride of six lions and some, if not all had been killed.
Reserve owner Nick Fox said that he was alerted to the remains by a tour guide and immediately called the Police and the Association of Eastern Cape Game Reserves’ anti-poaching team. Speaking to South Africa’s The Herald, Fox described the scene he encountered: “I went to investigate together with the anti-poaching unit. Because it was too dangerous to get out of the car, we could not examine the scene as the lions were close-by. What we did see is the rifle on the ground as well as food, mainly bread, scattered everywhere. Human remains were also clearly visible.”
The Herald reported that police were able to retrieve some of the remains and had sent them and other material out for forensic testing:
Police spokesperson Captain Mali Govender said that investigators and specialists combed the scene and managed to retrieve remains which were taken by the department of health for forensic testing Wednesday morning.
“The firearm has been taken by police and will be sent to the ballistics laboratory to establish if it has been used in any other poaching or crimes.”
The South African government considers rhino poaching and horn smuggling to be at “crisis levels.” In 2017, 1,028 rhinos were illegally killed, as reported by National Geographic:
Rhino horn is in demand in Asia, especially in Vietnam. Some erroneously believe it has medicinal value, capable of anything from curing cancer to working as an aphrodisiac. Others use it as a kind of club drug, to be mixed with water or alcohol. In reality, rhino horn is made of keratin, the same material as hair and fingernails, and there’s scant evidence that it has any effect, medicinal or otherwise. Rhino horn is also increasingly being carved into works of art.
“It is huge relief that they did not get to the rhino,” Fox told The Herald about the suspected poachers.