In many places in Africa, poaching is a real problem. Hunters sneak onto reserves and sanctuaries to kill animals for specific ‘precious’ parts, such as the ivory horns of elephants and rhinoceroses. Legal hunting, also known as “trophy” hunting, primarily done for sport and entertainment, is equally as problematic. The animals don’t just let hunters, legal or not, walk into their territory and kill them. No, often they will fight back, and sometimes they win. In this case, a renowned South African poacher eaten by crocodiles on a hunt in Zimbabwe is the embodiment of karma.
Poacher Eaten By Crocodiles While Hunting for Rhinos
In 2017, South African hunter Scott van Zyl went missing while on a hunt. Known for organizing hunting trips for foreign clients, it is believed he was eaten by crocodiles on the bank of the Limpopo River. (1)
He was accompanied by a pack of dogs and a Zimbabwean tracker, but the pair walked opposite directions into the bush. The dogs came back to their camp without van Zyl, who had left various belongings inside the truck. Rescue teams were sent in as well as helicopters, trackers, and divers in an attempt to find him. (1)
Eventually, his tracks were found leading up to the bank of the river, where his backpack was found. What they think maybe human remains were found inside two crocodiles in the river, which were tested by forensic scientists to determine whether or not they belong to van Zyl. (1)
His website states that he has completed numerous hunts, listing elephants, the blue duiker, buffalo, rhino, lions, leopards, and antelopes as target animals. (1)
Other Incidents of Poachers Eaten
While the loss of life is always a sad occasion, hunters and poachers who are intentionally killing endangered species for money and/or entertainment do need to be stopped. Though there are people and organizations in place to stop poachers before they hunt these precious species, sometimes the animals take matters into their own hands… or rather, paws.
In July 2019, some poachers who snuck onto a reserve in South Africa to poach endangered rhinos also met a gruesome fate. Early the next morning, their weapons, shoes and some clothing, and human body parts were found after they had been ripped apart by a pack of lions. Though three pairs of shoes were recovered from the scene, only one actual head was found. (2)
Stories of animals attacking hunters are becoming increasingly frequent. These stories include (3):
- Rhinos charging at hunters
- Tigers targeting and hunting human prey
- Lions attacking hunting camps at nighttime
- Elephants stampeding at unsuspecting people
Clearly, the animals are sending us a message: if you try and mess with them, they will retaliate.
The Difference between Legal “Trophy” Hunting and Poaching
In short, poaching is hunting when you don’t have legal permission from whoever controls that land. Hunting is regulated by the government, meaning that hunters must have a permit in order to kill certain animals.
In many countries, there are only specific seasons in which you can obtain a permit to kill certain species, and there are certain animals, such as lions in Zimbabwe, where it is always illegal to hunt them. The type of weaponry that a hunter uses is also highly regulated in most places, so it’s not just when and what you kill that has rules, but also how you do it.
How to Support Anti-Poaching Agencies
There are a variety of organizations that you can choose to support to help end the poaching and hunting of endangered and important species around the world:
- International Anti-Poaching Foundation
- Wildlife Conservation Society
- World Wildlife Fund
- The WILD Foundation
- Chengeta Wildlife
- Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
- Community Markets for Conservation
There are so many ways you can get involved and help to end poaching, so go through each organization to determine which one aligns best with you.