A suspected poacher was fatally mauled and eaten by a pack of lions near a national park in South Africa, leaving behind just the man’s “head and some remains,” police said.
A police spokesman in Limpopo told AFP that a loaded hunting rifle was found near the man’s body early Saturday at a private game park in Hoedspruit, west of the Kruger National Park, which contains large numbers of the Big 5 game species — which includes the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo.
“It seems the victim was poaching in the game park when he was attacked and killed by lions,” Limpopo police spokesman Moatshe Ngoepe told AFP. “They ate his body, nearly all of it, and just left his head and some remains.”
Investigators are now working to determine the man’s identity. Several lions were found poisoned near a farm in the same northern South African province last year with their heads and paws sawed off, AFP reports.
A total of three-quarters of all African lion populations worldwide are declining, with only about 20,000 currently left in the wild. Those numbers have fallen by more than 40 percent within the past three generations, according to World Wide Fund for Nature statistics.
BBC reports that lion body parts are sometimes used by doctors in Africa and elsewhere, particularly in southeast Asia, where they’re occasionally used as a substitute for tiger bones to treat several ailments from arthritis to erectile dysfunction.