A SUSPECTED poacher has been killed and eaten by a pride of lions in South Africa, leaving police with just his head to identify him.

The man was heard screaming for help at the Ingwelala Private Nature Reserve in Hoedspruit, outside Phalaborwa.

But the lions quickly killed their victim and ate most of his body before being chased away, leaving only his head untouched.

At first, police thought the dead man was a tractor driver who worked at the game reserve. However, when they established that the farmer was alive they realised the deceased man may have been a hunter.

Police confirmed they were investigating the possibility the man could have been a poacher after a hunting rifle was found close to what was left of his body.

Officers in Limpopo have called in the Department of Home Affairs to help them identify the man.

"It seems the victim was poaching in the game park when he was attacked and killed by lions. They ate his body, nearly all of it and just left his head and some remains," Limpopo police spokesman, Moatshe Ngoepe, told AFP.

The reserve has refused to comment because the police investigation is still underway.

According to estimates, lions kill up to 250 people a year in Africa. Research by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that between 1993-2014 the population of lions in Africa reduced by 42 per cent.

There are now said to be fewer than 20,000 of them in Africa.

Their bones have become highly prized with skeletons sold for up to £7,000, while their skin can sell for £3,000 and teeth can fetch £500.

The attack comes months after a poacher, Luteni Muharukua, was charged at and killed by a rhino he was hunting for its horn in Namibia. 

News Corp Australia


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