Poachers poisoned three while lions before decapitating one and hacking off its paws for black magic rituals in South Africa.
Police believe suspects threw poisoned chicken meat into the lions’ enclosures at a game farm in Alldays, South Africa, to incapacitate them in order to butcher the big cats.
They said the thugs had started trying to skin one of the lions, but think they were interrupted.
The lion near Polokwane in South Africa which poachers decapitated and attempted to skin
Police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said they found one lion dead at the Ingogo Safari lodge north-west of Polokwane on Tuesday.
‘The other two lions were incapacitated by the poison but the white one unfortunately died,’ he told News 24.
‘The suspects appear to have been disturbed as they also attempted to remove the skin but failed.
‘A veterinarian was called to the scene to treat the surviving sickly animals.
‘They could not walk and the one was even vomiting.’
A white lion poisoned and mutilated by poachers in May last year as part of a muti-killing
This is the sixth lion to be killed in the province this year and the suspects are on the run.
Sadly, it is not a new phenomenon.
In May last year, a pair of majestic white lions were poisoned by poachers in South Africa who then beheaded them and chopped off their paws in almost a copycat case.
It is believed the lions were targeted by poachers as part of a muti-killing, where animal body parts are used for healing in black magic rituals.
It is believed the lions, targeted in May last year, were killed for their body parts which are used for healing in black magic rituals
Just like the most recent incident, the lions in May were poisoned before they were butchered
Before they were killed, it is believed the lions were fed a pesticide called Temik, which is used to get rid of spider mites and other pests.
Local police said they had picked up a number of suspects relating to the killing near the Stockpoort border crossing with Botswana.
It has been estimated that 8,000 lions are bred in captivity in South Africa.
Animal rights activists say canned – or ‘captive’ – hunting in South Africa, where lions have been reduced to little more than ‘farmyard chickens’, is popular to meet the market of high-paying tourists who hunt them down using guns or bows for the ultimate ‘trophy’ kill.
An undercover investigation for a new film into the trade reveals that safari companies will even send out prospective hunters a catalogue so they can choose the exact animal they want to kill – ranging in price from $5,400 (£3,500) to $48,000 (£31,000), depending on size and condition.
South Africa is a prime destination for rich tourists looking to add another trophy to their collection and, as a result, 1,000 lions are killed there every year.
Ian Michler – a long time campaigner against the canned lion trade – points out just five lions killed last year were ‘wild’ or ‘free running’.