Lions that killed suspected rhino poachers won’t be euthanized, says owner of game reserve

The six lions involved in the killing of suspected poachers are not showing aggressive behaviour, according to the owner of the game reserve in South Africa.

Nick Fox, the owner of Sibuya Game Reserve, said he’s received many questions related to the future of the lions who killed the poachers. The lions were anesthetized by darts after the bodies of the poachers were found and they are being closely monitored by Fox, the veterinary staff and conservation staff at the reserve.

Fox said the lions’  behaviour appeared no different from that exhibited towards these vehicles over the last ten years.  The general consensus in the game industry is that lions view a game viewing vehicle containing people as something entirely different from individuals who are walking on the ground. At Sibuya Game Reserve, located the country’s Sunshine Coast and accessible solely by boat, visitors only view game from specialized game viewing vehicles and not on foot due to the extremely dense bush and thick forest on the reserve, according to Fox.

Although we will continue to be extremely vigilant we remain positive that this incident will not necessitate any changes to the status quo of our lions.

The lions are believed to have killed at least three poachers who entered the game reserve sometime during the night of July 1st and the early hours of July 2nd.

The poachers 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.

One of the reserve’s anti-poaching dogs alerted her handler at about 4.30 am Monday morning that something was amiss.

At the same time the handler heard a loud commotion coming from the lions so he suspected that this was what had alerted her and was not concerned. It is not unusual to hear them at night. However, it now appears likely that the dog had been alerted by something else out of the ordinary coming from the lions.

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. Fox said he immediately went to the scene along with people from the anti-poaching unit.

At the scene, they found the high powered rifle, gloves, wire cutters and the remains of a back pack with food, water and other supplies.

Clearly, the poachers had walked into a pride of six lions and some, if not all had been killed.

As it was already dark when they made the initial discovery, the investigators waited until dawn and returned with a vet to dart the entire pride of lions so that Police forensic teams assisted by our Anti-poaching unit could comb the immediate area for clues.

At this stage it is still not clear exactly how many poachers were killed but the Police forensic team continue to investigate, Fox said.

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Peg Fong

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