A pack of lions that ruled over one of & # 39; the world's largest urban game reserves were massacred by poachers in South Africa for body parts for use in black potions.
Two male lions named Jarvis and Tau and two lionesses named Bashi and Tawani died in terror last Thursday after eating poisoned meat in the Rietvlei nature reserve, located on the outskirts of the capital Pretoria.
The four – known as the Trots van Rietvlei – then had their jaws and legs chopped off with machetes to be resold to witch doctors.
A flock of four lions – two males named Jarvis and Tau and two females named Bashi and Tawani – are poisoned to death in a protected game reserve in South Africa
Keepers say the lions got poisoned meat and died a & # 39; painful death & # 39; in the course of 15 minutes before their legs and jaws were cut off so that they could be sold to witch doctors
The lions were rescued from a canned marina before being taken to the Rietvlei nature reserve near Pretoria, where they lived in a heavily protected area
Guardian Bradden Stevens, 33, was desperate when he was called to investigate the blood-soaked carcasses of the big cats he had devoted to protection for nearly ten years of his life.
It is not the first time poachers have been targeted by poachers – two other women named River and Serabi were fatally poisoned in 2017, although poachers were disturbed before they could mutilate the bodies.
After the attack, the rest of the group was moved to a safer area of 250 hectares in the middle of the game reserve.
However, that did not mean that last week armed poachers did not eliminate all pride.
The group is thought to have detailed knowledge of the reserve to focus on the animals where they lived.
The four lions – rescued from a canned lion sanctuary and a private owner who had kept them illegal – were thrown meats peppered with poison.
They died a painful death within 15 minutes before poachers moved in with machetes and used 16 legs and 4 jaws for potions.
Depicted are the male alpha lion Jarvis (right) and the lioness Tawani who were both killed by poachers
Male Lion Tau was also one of the dead in the attack of an armed gang last Thursday
Lioness Bashi was also one of the four dead. The pride has been attacked once before, with two lionesses named River and Serabi being mortally poisoned in 2017
Distraught playman Bradden said that his world has been & # 39; turned upside down & # 39; by the & # 39; muti murder & # 39; – muti is a South African term for traditional tribal medicine.
He added: “I worked with this group of lions for 10 years in a world where they were not exploited for human greed or vanity, but in a world that was part of responsible and ethical tourism.
& # 39; The last few days have been the darkest I have ever experienced and finding my lions who were my life the way I found them will haunt me for the rest of my life.
& # 39; I am convinced that these lion parts do not go far, but find their way to local muti markets, where muti are body parts used to make traditional medicines or potions.
& # 39; These markets must be closed and those entering game reserves where these beautiful animals are safe and slaughtering them in such a way must be severely punished.
& # 39; My heart is breaking for my four boys and girls and I am now in a very dark place & # 39 ;, he said.
Mr. Dana Wannenburg, head of the Environment and Agriculture Council, said it was an & # 39; inside job & # 39; seemed to be with those who had come to know the layout and how they could gain access.
He said: "We have increased security by police patrolling main roads in and around the reserve to increase existing security to maintain animal safety such as rhinos."
The Rietvlei nature reserve was also home to four of the famous African & # 39; Big Five & # 39; with healthy populations of rhinos, leopards and buffalo and a pack of lions until this week.
South African police said an autopsy confirmed that the lions were poisoned before being slaughtered with a spokesperson who said: “This horrific crime will not go unpunished.”
Chief Ranger, Mr. Stevens, added: “The Pride of Rietvlei consisted of rescue lions and could not be released into the wild because they would not be able to eat well and survive.
& # 39; We have not allowed direct interaction between tourists and our lions and it was our job to teach tourists and children about the damage the & # 39; stroking lions & # 39; and & # 39; walk with lions & # 39;
Jarvis and Tawani are depicted in the back of a lowloader before they were killed. Police believe the crime was an internal task because poachers had detailed knowledge of the reserve
Jarvis (left) and Tau (right) before they were poisoned. The Rietvlei pride was rescued from a canned hunting farm and as such could not be released into the wild because they did not have the right hunting instincts
& # 39; It is so tragic that our wonderful pride has reached such a cruel and cruel end to men looking for money, "he said.
Set on 3800 hectares on the outskirts of Pretoria, the Rietvlei Nature Reserve is home to 2,000 games, including hippos, zebras, springboks, cheetahs and offers an incredible bird spot.
In April last year, Gert Claasen, 48, had killed 3 lions for body parts and 3 more dead and stolen to be later slaughtered from his reserve in Petrus Steyn in the Free State province.
In May of last year at Jugomara Predator Park in Limpopo province, owner Justin Fernandes, 32, had chopped up three lions and a rare white tiger for their body parts.
And in July last year, Christa Sayman, 55, lost six lions to poachers who cut off the heads and paws of four full-grown lions for black potions and killed two other lion cubs.
A complete lion skeleton can be purchased in South Africa for £ 1000, but in Vietnam it is worth £ 50,000 and the individual claws and teeth of a lion are highly appreciated and receive top prizes.
A traditional healer from Limpopo who did not want to give her name said: “The body parts of the lion are used to make strong muti, a potion made by healers to cast spells.
& # 39; These can be used to protect or cure a person against illness or to make them strong or virile or even used to chase away enemies or prevent them from being attacked & she said.
Dr. Kelly Marnewick of the Endangered Wildlife Trust closely follows the mutilated and poached lions on private farms and shrines throughout South Africa.
She said: "It is mainly the claws, heads and teeth of the poachers that the poachers are after, and in 2017 22 captive lions had been killed and this is something that we are keeping a close eye on."
It is feared that lion bones are now being sought to replace the much rarer tiger bones demanded in Southeast Asia and smuggled for use in traditional medicines.
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