Six lions killed for witchcraft rituals in South Africa

A wildlife park owner, Christa Saayman, was left horrified after six of her lions were butchered for their body parts, meant to be used in black magic rituals.

The animals were poisoned and poachers hacked the heads and paws off four fully grown lions and also killed two cubs at the Mystic Monkeys & Feathers Wildlife Park, just north of Pretoria, the capital of South Africa.

Two white lions called Aslem and Aiden, who were a favourite of tourists, as well as brown lion Sussie, lioness Jessie and two lion cubs suffered the cruel fate.

Park owner Christa, 55, said: “It was cruel, inhumane and devastating. I don’t have words to describe how I feel. I am so sad. What we woke up to here was just dreadful.

This was a senseless and heartless act by people who robbed us of six beautiful animals. To see these majestic lions so mutilated was just such a pitiful disgrace.

Just as we thought we were playing our part in the conservation and awareness and protection of these animals then you have people who come and do this to them.”

A manhunt is underway for the culprits with security company Hi-Risk Unit said to be hot on the trail of the killers and offering a $19,776 reward for information.

Distraught Christa said she woke in the early hours of Saturday at 4.30am after a police patrol chased a group of suspicious men away from the park perimeter.

One of the fleeing suspects dropped a backpack and other workers at the park have identified the clothes inside as belonging to an employee who has since vanished.

Christa said: “At that stage I did not connect the incident at all with the lions.

It was only when the worker in charge of feeding the lions shouted in shock around 7am when he discovered the remains of the butchered lions in their compounds.

You cannot imagine the gruesomeness of the scene. I had the workers take their bodies and burn the remains that afternoon. It was the saddest day of my life.”

The South African Police Service, who are investigating, said the suspects threw chickens heavily laced with poison over the electric fences to kill the six lions.

Christa said: “None of the fences was cut and they bypassed the electric fences so I am convinced it is an inside job but our security company has a lot of information.”

Limpopo police said they had launched a manhunt for the suspects.

Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe said: “An employee noticed bloodstains followed by the gruesome discovery of four lions dead with their heads and paws chopped off.

The two lion cubs were also dead but with no missing body parts.”

A traditional healer from Limpopo who would not give her name said; “the lion body parts are used to make strong muti which is a witchcraft potion to cast spells.

This can be used to protect a person from illness or to make them strong or virile.

It can be used by a person to scare their enemies or protect them from attack or the potions can be made to make a person strong or respected or feared by others.”

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