On Wednesday 11th January, three male lions were found mutilated in a private game park near Johannesburg, South Africa. The majestic animals were discovered with their heads and paws missing. The Tzaneen Lion and Predator Park in northern Limpopo province called the police who are now investigating.
There have been rumors of poisoning being behind the deaths but police have declined to comment at this time.
The perpetrators are said to have cut the wire fence to enter the lion cage inside the park and went on to slay the precious animals. It is unknown how they got past the first line of security, leading some people to suggest it could have been an inside job.
The Police have, however, not ruled out the theory that the heads and paws could have been taken to be used in ‘muti’ which is African traditional medicine. Traditional healers use herbal remedies, animal parts, and ‘magic’ to help heal various illnesses, as well as, focus towards wealth and achievement.
Other lions have been reported dead bringing the total to six so far.
Police spokesman Moatshe Ngoepe has stated:
“We cannot confirm that the same people are behind all these killings, but the modus operandi is the same.”
Lionaid have also warned that belief in the ‘magical’ powers of lion parts within Africa, along with Chinese medicine, adds to their endangerment. This report says that in South Africa lion fat is traditionally believed to ward off ‘evil spirits’ and that some San Bushman even rub the fat over their bodies for protection. After investigations into lion use in traditional medicine in Nigeria, Lionaid found using various lion body parts in medicine is a significant belief among locals:
“Interviews with villagers revealed a startling breadth of use: lion fat used to treat back and joint pain; lion skin and lungs used to treat whooping cough; lion veins used to treat erectile dysfunction; lion noses used to treat stomach problems; and lion livers used to treat headaches.”
The police are continuing their hunt for the killers.
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