The male lions, José and Liso, along with 33 other lions were relocated to South Africa last May to live out their days in a wildlife refuge. Before their transfer to the wild, the animals were held in small cages on trucks and suffered violent mistreatment. The lions were among those animals including many birds, monkeys, and others that were rescued from circuses across South America.
The park officials said that South African police and various anti-poaching units are investigating the incident. The 5000 hectare sanctuary, located in northern Limpopo Province, is currently closed to visitors and volunteers.
Minunette Heuser, who runs the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary with her daughter Savvanah Heuser said:
This is not just another poaching incident. But these killers will never break our spirit. We are not going to take this lying down. We are standing together. This cowardly killing of two innocent souls, sweet, elderly lions, one of whom had suffered brain damage from blows to the head in the circus, must not be left unpunished.
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So far no details are available about the motive behind this heinous crime. However, lion parts have long been used in traditional healing rituals in South Africa. In some Asian countries, African lion bones have become a substitute in tonics for the bones of Asian tigers.
Earlier in January poachers also infiltrated another animal park in South Africa and beheaded three male lions. They chopped the paws of these lions, most probably, for the use in some traditional healing rituals.