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    Suspected Poacher Killed by Elephant, Eaten by Lions in South Africa (PHOTO)

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    Officials with South Africa's Kruger National Parks (KNP) issued a statement on Friday, revealing that a suspected rhino poacher had been killed by an elephant during an illegal hunt with four accomplices. His remains were later consumed by a pride of lions.

    A weekend statement from the South African Police Service reveals that the hunting group entered the park on the night of April 1, and that the unidentified man was killed when an elephant attacked the group.

    "His accomplices claimed to have carried his body to the road so that passers-by could find it in the morning. They the[n] vanished from the Park," reads the statement. "Once outside, they reportedly informed a relative of the dead man about their ordeal, and police were alerted regarding the incident."

    With authorities tipped off to the fatal encounter, KNP rangers and police officers launched a joint search of the area to recover the body. Officials found the hunter's remains on Thursday after they were able to obtain additional information necessary to the search from the accomplices, of whom three were detained by police on Wednesday.

    The KNP's release on the search states that "indications found at the scene suggested that a pride of lions had devoured the remains, leaving only a human skull and a pair of pants." The remains were discovered at the Crocodile Bridge section of the park, which is said be known for housing a high concentration of lion prides, according to the National Post.

    "Entering Kruger National Park illegally and on foot is not wise; it holds many dangers and this incident is evidence of that," Glenn Phillips, managing executive of the KNP, said in a statement. "It is very sad to see the daughters of the [deceased] mourning the loss of their father, and worse still, only being able to recover very little of his remains."

    ​Photos released by law enforcement officials show that authorities also seized a pair of.375-caliber hunting rifles and ammunition from the hunting group.

    The arrestees, who range between 26 and 35 years of age, have been hit with charges including possession of firearms and ammunition without a license, conspiracy to poach and trespassing.

    The trio were remanded in custody and are expected to appear before the Komatipoort Magistrate's Court on April 12.

    The investigation into the death is ongoing.

    According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), poaching is the presently the greatest threat to Africa's population of rhinos. In South Africa alone, WWF reported the amount of rhinos poached increased from 13 in 2007 to a whopping 1,215 in 2014.

    Though demand for rhino horns is mostly driven by the belief that they contains healing components for various ailments such as fever and food poisoning, wildlife experts have repeatedly shot down that claim. According to the US' Fish & Wildlife Service, rhino horns are primarily composed of the protein keratin, which can be found in hair and in fingernails.

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    Tags:
    Death, lion, Elephant, rhino, Poaching, South African Police Service (SAPS), Kruger National Parks, South Africa
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