Rhino poaching gangs appear to have added a new and grisly commodity to their illegal wildlife shopping lists.
The hacked-off faces and feet of wild lions.
Sixteen lions have been killed by poachers who hacked the faces and paws off eight of the adults to sell their teeth and claws to be used to turn into black magic potions.
Distraught Gert Blom, 51, who owns Predators Rock Bush Lodge in Rustenburg, South Africa, was surprised when he woke up not to hear his lion pride roaring as usual at dawn.
He went down to their enclosure and found his two male lions and six lionesses missing and followed drag trails to behind a perimeter wall where he found them all butchered.
Gert said: ‘They had hacked off 32 paws for the claws and eight of their snouts for their teeth after killing them with poisoned chicken which is a really agonising death for the lions.
‘It is cruelty that is beyond belief and an absolutely terrible sight to behold when you see magnificent predators lying there covered in flies minus their faces and their paws’.
A further devastating blow was that two of the lionesses were within 24 hours of giving birth and a post mortem showed that they died with 3 unborn cubs inside each.
Another lioness had given birth the day before she was poisoned and two of her cubs were found dead and it is thought they probably died after suckling milk that was poisoned.
Gert said: ‘With the eight dead cubs – six unborn and the two that were almost certainly poisoned from their mother’s milk – that means the poachers effectively killed 16 lions.
‘Two of the lionesses were about to give birth which makes this all the more tragic’ he said after the lions were killed early on Friday morning at the predator park in North West Province.
Luckily one cub named Yoda who did not drink her mothers’ poisoned milk survived and now at just two days old is being bottle fed milk by Gert.
He said: ‘They got over two 2.4m game fences and a 2.4m brick wall then threw poisoned chicken carcasses into the lion enclosure which is protected by a final electric fence.
‘When the lions were dead they used bolt croppers on the gates to avoid the electric wires around the top and then dragged the lions behind out and behind a wall to butcher them.
‘We have found four sets of footprints so we know there were four poachers here’ he said.
The poisoned lions of the pride were all aged between three and four years old.