To animal rights activists, those who kill majestic wild creatures for sport, pleasure or profit are very much the enemy.
So when a known trophy hunter or poacher meets a bloody end, their opposers are unlikely to shed any tears.
That was very much the case this week when Riaan Naude, a notorious trophy hunter who killed lions, elephants and giraffes, was shot dead in an “execution-style” murder at the roadside in South Africa.
His death was announced on Twitter by the XposeTrophyKilling group with a picture of the 55-year-old owner of Pro Hunt Africa proudly posing with a dead lion.
One person said: “Hunter hunted. I’m not happy, but animals should not be anyone’s trophy,” while another added: “When I look at this picture I can’t feel sorry for him.”
But while Naude’s death was likely to have been quick, the same cannot be said for three poachers who four years ago this month met a particularly grisly end.
A severed human head, torn-off limbs and three pairs of empty shoes strewn about were all that remained of the three men when they were discovered.
The gang had broken into Sibuya Game Reserve in South Africa in July 2018, seemingly with the aim of slaughtering a herd of rhinos for their horns.
Equipped with rifles and an axe, they had all they needed to kill the animals and cut off their horns to sell on the black market.
They also had enough food to last them for several days.
But what they didn’t account for was the pride of protective lions who were said to guard the park.
After the incident, reserve owner Nick Fox said the poachers were heavily armed and had significant supplies, “so we suspect they were after all of our rhinos here.”
He added: “But the lions are our watchers and guardians and they picked the wrong pride and became a meal.
“While we are saddened at any loss of life, the poachers came here to kill our animals and this sends out a very clear message to any other poachers that you will not always be the winner.”
The incident made headlines around the world at the time with many people saying it was karma for the rhinos who continue to be brutally killed around the world.
And it was not the first time nature had fought back against its oppressors.
In May 2018, trophy hunter Claude Kleynhans was gored to death by a buffalo near the Levubu River in South Africa.
He was loading a buffalo carcass onto his vehicle when another animal blindsided him, tore open his femoral artery and sent the 54-year-old to an early grave.
Earlier that year, a big cat poacher was killed at the Ingwelala Private Nature Reserve when he was attacked and eaten by the pride he was trying to hunt.
He screamed out but by the time help arrived the lions had killed and eaten most of the man, leaving his head untouched.
A rhino poacher in Namibia was lucky to escape when he was charged by a rhino he was tracking in 2017. The poacher suffered a severe injury to his leg.
In 2019 at the Kruger National Park in South Africa, a poacher was trampled to death by an elephant and his remains devoured by lions. A search team found only a human skull and a pair of pants.
Then in October 2021, another crushed and mutilated human body was found at the same reserve.
It was thought an elephant had stampeded a poacher to death as the animal tried to buy its herd time to escape.
Rhino poachers use a machete to hack off the horn and the animals are left to bleed to death. Their horns are crushed up and used in Asian medicine or sold on the black market despite it having no proven health benefits.
According to South Africa’s Department for Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, a total of 451 rhinos were poached in 2021 – 327 within government reserves and 124 on private property.
Poachers killed 24 in the first two weeks of December 2021 alone, after a slight dip in killings during the covid pandemic.
Lead Image: Poachers broke into Sibuya Game Reserve to slaughter rhinos, but were eaten by lions (Image: Jamie Pyatt News). This article by Jamie Pyatt and Naomi Corrigan was first published by The Daily Star on 8 July 2022.
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