They call it just deserts, and that's exactly what happened to three rhino poachers mauled and killed by lions in South Africa.

A pride of lions living on Sibuya Game Reserve near Kenton-on-Sea, South Africa were doing the very job the animals were brought to the reserve for - to protect the endangered rhinos inhabiting the area.

Lion pride feeds on suspected poachers

Rhino horns carry a high price but the three rhino poachers who broke into the reserve almost two weeks ago carried an even higher price to the lions that night - dinner!

The dismembered, almost-entirely eaten corpses of the poachers were discovered hours after the attack, along with hunting gear most commonly used for rhino poaching.

Owner of the Sibuya reserve, Nick Fox, said they found enough body parts and three pairs of shoes to suggest the lions ate at least three people.

"They came heavily armed with hunting rifles and axes which we have recovered and enough food to last them for several days so we suspect they were after all of our rhinos here," Nick said.

One of the anti-poaching dogs alerted its handler to a commotion coming from the lions in the early hours of the morning. Once daylight had arrived, the investigating team went to investigate what had taken place.

According to Nick, "there was not much left" of the poachers.

"The lions are our watchers and guardians and they picked the wrong pride and became a meal."

An endangered species

Thousands of African rhinos have been slaughtered over the last decade, led by heavy demand for rhino horns.

Latest figures show there are approximately 5,000 of the endangered black rhinoceros left on the African continent, including nearly 1,900 in South Africa.

Rhino horns have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years and are becoming increasingly popular in Vietnam. Trophy horns are also contributing to declining rhino populations.

Reserves like Sibuya help to protect these endangered species despite coming up against highly powerful and well-resourced poaching gangs.

Similar story: Death of Sudan - the last male northern white rhinoceros

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