Sixteen lions at a lodge in Rustenburg, South Africa, have been killed by poachers. The faces and paws of eight of the adults were hacked off, most probably to sell their teeth and claws to be used in ‘black magic’ potions or ‘muti‘.
Distraught Gert Blom, 51, who owns Predators Rock Bush Lodge in North West province, said he was surprised when he woke up and didn’t hear the usual roaring of the lion pride at dawn on Friday morning.
Blom went down to their enclosure to check, and found his two male lions and six lionesses missing. He followed the trails of where they’d been dragged… to behind a perimeter wall when he sadly found them all butchered.
Gert said: “(The poachers) had hacked off 32 paws for the claws and 8 of their snouts for their teeth after killing them with poisoned chicken… which is a really agonising death for the lions.
“It is cruelty that is beyond belief and an absolutely terrible sight to behold when you see magnificent predators lying there covered in flies minus their faces and their paws.”
Even more heartbreaking is that two of the lionesses were just 24 hours away from giving birth. A post mortem showed that each lioness died with three unborn cubs inside her.
Another lioness had given birth the day before she was poisoned, and two of her cubs were found dead. It’s thought they probably died after suckling milk that was poisoned.
Gert said: “With the eight dead cubs – six unborn and the two that were almost certainly poisoned from their mother’s milk – that means the poachers effectively killed 16 lions.
The only ray of sunshine was that the one cub – named Yoda – who did not drink her mothers’ poisoned milk survived, and now – at just two days old – is being bottle fed milk by Gert.
He said the poachers “got over two 2.4m game fences and a 2.4m brick wall then threw poisoned chicken carcasses into the lion enclosure which is protected by a final electric fence.
“When the lions were dead they used bolt croppers on the gates to avoid the electric wires around the top and then dragged the lions out and behind a wall to butcher them.
“We have found four sets of footprints so we know there were four poachers here,” he said.
The poisoned lions of the pride were all aged between 3 and 4 years old and the male lions were called Aslan and Hollow, and the females Noela, Sia, Sussie, Misty, Lilly, and Frye.
The poachers apparently laced chicken carcasses with poison, similar to that used by burglars to kill guard dogs.
Gert took a distressing 1.08m video of his slaughtered lions (watch below) and said: “I hope that anybody who has any information on these poachers after seeing this film calls the police.
“They did this to these magnificent animals just for their teeth and their claws.”
Predators Rock is also an officially registered breeding facility that aims to improve the numbers of endangered animals in South Africa, and provides animals to zoos at home and abroad.
South African Police spokesperson Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone said: “Eight lions were killed and we are investigating the crime but as of now there have been no arrests of anyone yet”.
Traditional witch doctors or healers use the lion body parts to make potions known as “muti” for local customers who believe it gives them powers to ward off evil spirts or to bring luck.
Married father-of-two Gert’s predator park is spread over 152 acres, and as well as lions is home to tigers, leopards, cheetahs, caracals, hyenas, crocodiles and many types of antelope.
This is the latest of several similar shocking poaching attacks:
- In November poachers hacked off the heads and paws of five lions which made up the entire pride at Sunward Ranch in Brits, Limpopo Province, belonging to Menno Parsons.
- Earlier that month poachers poisoned four more lions but were chased off before they could take their body parts at Chameleon Village Lion Park at Hartbeespoort near Johannesburg.
- In October the pride of lions who ruled the largest urban game reserve in the world was butchered at the Rietvlei Nature Reserve at Pretoria with all their four lions butchered.
- In July last year Christa Sayman, 55, lost six lions to poachers who hacked off the heads and paws of four fully grown lions and also killed two other lion cubs at her lion park.
- And in May last year at the Jugomara Predator Park in Limpopo Province, owner Justin Fernandes, 32, had three lions and a rare white tiger hacked to bits for body parts.
- In April last year Gert Claasen, 48, had 3 lions butchered and 3 more stolen to be killed and butchered later at his game reserve in Petrus Steyn in Free State Province.
Watch Video: Lions killed by poachers in South Africa –
Warning: graphic content
A complete lion skeleton can be bought in South Africa for £1000 but in Vietnam it is worth £50,000 and the individual claws and teeth of a lion are highly prized.
A traditional healer from Limpopo who would not be named said: “The lion body parts are used to make strong muti which is a witchcraft potion made by healers to cast spells.
“These can be used to protect a person from illness or cure them or make them strong or virile or even used to scare enemies away or prevent them from being attacked.”
It is feared lion bones are now becoming sought after to replace the far rarer tiger bones in demand in South East Asia and are being smuggled out for use in traditional medicines in that region.
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