A suspected poacher who was killed and eaten by the pride of lions he was stalking has been named as David Baloyi, 50, who had crossed over the South African border to hunt game.
He and two other armed men had trekked from a village in Mozambique carrying powerful hunting rifles into the Umbabat Game Reserve in Limpopo Province late on Friday night.
Unusually the gang had chosen not to hunt by the light of the full moon but instead in darkness and had either surprised or were stalked by a pride of lions who attacked them in the bush.
Dinner: David Baloyi, 50, from Mozambique was mauled to death and eaten by the pack of lions he was hunting illegally on a game reserve in South Africa’s Limpopo Province. Pictured: Two lions at the private park that were not involved in the incident
Big cat hunter Baloyi was mauled by the very lions he was tracking and his screams for help panicked the two other poachers who fled leaving behind two .456 Winchester rifles.
The rifle is the weapon of choice for big game hunters and can fell rhinos and elephants and both were loaded and a quantity of ammunition was found nearby that had been abandoned.
Lieutenant Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe of the South African Police Service said that the lions had almost entirely devoured the body and only the head was left to identify the suspect by.
He said the dead mans’ sister-in-law received a phone call from her family in Mozambique telling her that the two other poachers had said he had been eaten by lions in South Africa.
Lieutenant Colonel Ngoepe said:’The incident happened on Friday last week when it was believed the three suspected illegal poachers were attacked by a group of lions in the park.
The incident took place on the border of the Umbabat Game Reserve and the Ingwelala Game Reserve (pictured)
‘The deceased was killed and eaten by these lions.
‘The other two managed to escape the attack and fled back to their home country Mozambique and they then reported their ordeal to the family and the sister-in-law was telephoned.
‘She confirmed she also heard over the radio an unknown person was killed by lions and that anyone who could help with the identification should go to Hoedspruit Police Station.
‘She went to the police station and was taken to the Maphutha Malatji Hospital Mortuary outside Phalaborwa where she identified the deceased as David Baloyi, aged 50.
‘There was only the head to identify him by and it was not in good condition and there was a lot of blood but we have now got a positive identification and we are satisfied it is him.
‘He was from the Masingiri area at Mavudza Village in Mozambique.
‘The police are still investigating the possibility that the deceased might have been a poacher after hunting rifles and ammunition were found in the vicinity of the scene.
‘Subsequent to the gruesome discovery the police have opened an inquest for further investigations and we are asking for anyone with further information to come forward’.
The alarm was raised when the poachers screams for help were heard but the lions quickly killed the man and devoured almost all his body before being chased off by gunshots.
The killing comes just months after poacher Luteni Muhararukua was charged and killed by a rhino he was hunting for its horn in nearby Namibia.
A local worker, who works at a nearby nature reserve, described the area as lion territory.
British wildlife photographer Charlie Lynham, 59, from Liverpool who now lives close to Ingwelala Game Reserve has spent years photographing the resident lion pride that lives there.
He arrived at the gates shortly after the alarm was raised and the paramedics had raced in.
Mr Lynham was told that the suspected poacher had been killed and that not a lot was left of him.
Charlie said: ‘It turns out it was not the resident pride that lives here responsible as they were on a buffalo kill at the time of the incident but a pride perhaps come over from the Kruger.
‘It happened on the border of the Umbabat Game Reserve and it happened after dark and may have been on their reserve.
‘Two .456 big game rifles and ammunition were found at the scene and that is weapon of choice and is used by those hunting big game especially elephant and rhino in the bush.
‘I cannot say if it was poachers as the matter is under investigation but that is their weapon of choice and they usually work in groups of three and work under cover of darkness.
‘Two sets of footprints have been found running away and obviously the dead and eaten man.
‘There were no anti-poaching groups in the area at the time and nobody was working there so although speculation it would seem very possible that you have poetic justice here.
‘Lions are not a particular danger in daylight but after dark then that is another matter.
‘It is purely speculation on my part but it would seem they either walked into a pride of lions in the darkness or they were stalked and attacked and a man was taken down and eaten.
‘The other two it seems ran off and two .456 big game rifles were found and ammunition.
‘I have been photographing the Ingwelala pride for years and was concerned in case it was them in case they got accused of attacking humans and there were calls to kill them.
‘But it was not our pride and was probably one from the Kruger that come over the border.
‘If you go out walking in the bush in the dark then I am afraid you are fair game in the wild and there is no way that anyone can attribute any blame to those lions for this kill’.
Mr Ngoepe confirmed police were investigating the possibility the deceased might have been a poacher after a hunting rifle was found near the scene.