06/07/2018 11:40 SAST | Updated 06/07/2018 11:40 SAST

Lions Maul Rhino Poachers To Death In Game Reserve

A pride of lions reportedly devoured three poachers in an Eastern Cape game reserve, leaving only dismembered remains, an axe and a rifle.

A pride of lions mauled three rhino poachers to death in an Eastern Cape game reserve, AFP has reported. It is believed that the three men entered the Sibuya Game Reserve on Monday, and their unrecognisable bodies were found on Tuesday.

They were reportedly carrying a high-powered rifle and an axe.

Reserve owner Nick Fox told AFP: "They strayed into a pride of lions. It's a big pride, so they didn't have too much time. We're not sure how many there were; there's not much left of them. There seems to be clothing for three people."

The bodies have been sent to the department of health for forensic testing.

He said the reserve had lost three rhinos in 2016.

According to the Guardian, a ranger taking guests on a game drive at the reserve discovered the human remains on Tuesday afternoon. The lions were reportedly heard making a noise in the early hours of Monday morning.

Fox reportedly said the axe confirmed that the men were poachers. He said poachers used the rifle to kill rhino, and the axe to remove the horn.

More than 1,000 rhino were killed in South Africa last year.

Save The Rhino reports that rhino poaching rose exponentially between 2007 and 2014, to reach a record high of 1,215 animals killed in 2014. Numbers have declined slightly since then, but poaching remains a big problem.

In May, six black rhinos were flown from South Africa to Chad, where only one animal remained because of poaching. The species was declared officially extinct in that country in 2006.

They were held in bomas at the Addo Elephant National Park for three months.

This is the first time in 46 years that black rhinos will roam freely in Chad.