Three separate lion prides have been brutally butchered in the same month in South Africa by poachers who hacked off their heads and paws.

The lions’ distraught owner Menno Parsons, broke the news that his 10-year-old lion Ta, and four lionesses had suffered an agonising death by being fed chicken carcasses laced with poison.

Menno – a top air display pilot – owns Sunward Ranch which provides lion experiences for underprivileged children near the town of Brits in Limpopo Province.

On Tuesday night a gang of poachers threw the poisoned chickens over the electrified fences and waited for the predators to eat them. After suffering for around 30 minutes all five lions were dead.

The poachers then cut their way through the fences and using machetes hacked off the heads of the majestic lions.

Traditional witch doctors or healers in South Africa use the body parts to make potions known as “muti” for local customers. The body parts are also smuggled to the Far East and sold for vast amounts to dealers, and ultimately used to make ‘wine’.

Father-of-three Menno said:

“When you get the phone call telling you that your lions have not just been killed by poachers but have been butchered I tell you nothing prepares you.

I fly helicopters on anti-poaching patrols and go after poachers who are on the run to help out the police and security agencies but you never actually expect it is going to happen to you.

I have looked after lions for 10 years and they are like a family to me. I am not afraid of these poachers and I have got guys with me and we will be going out there looking for them” .

Along with Tau his four lionesses killed were sisters Tana and Jade, both 5, and Zuri and Nala, both 3.

Menno continued:

“I give something back by providing children’s camps at Sunward Ranch for kids who have had it tough and it is aimed at underprivileged children or orphans or kids that have difficulties in life.

It is an adventure camp and part of the experience is for them at the end to meet the lions and learn about them and understand the difficulties they have experienced but that they never ever gave up.

It is a message I pass on to the kids but these evil people have come in and taken that all away from these children“.

He says there appears to be a link between lion farm audits and then attacked and is calling on the police to step up their efforts to crack the link and arrest the gangs responsible for the attacks.


The Provincial Commissioner of the South Africa Police Service Lieutenant General Neke Ledwaba said:

“The poachers must be stopped in their tracks and brought to book”.

He said a team of top anti-poaching investigators had been put forward to investigate after the third attack since October.

Earlier this month poachers killed four lions with poisoned chicken but were disturbed and chased off by guards before they could remove any of their body parts.

Male lions Thor and Mumford and white lionesses Isis and Mia were found dead at the popular Chameleon Village Lion Park at Hartbeespoort north of Johannesburg.

Owner Hennie Pio, 31, said:

“It is happening all over the country but these gangs never seem to get caught. They kill the lions and then just disappear as if into thin air”.

In October a pride of lions who ruled one of the largest urban game reserves were butchered for body parts at the Rietvlei Nature Reserve on the edge of Pretoria.

Two male lions named Jarvis and Tau and two lionesses named Bashi and Tawani – known as the Pride of Rietvlei – died in agony after also eating poisoned chicken.

Head Ranger Bradden Stevens, 33, who had dedicated nearly a decade of his life to protecting them was left totally devastated.

He said:

“These gangs always get away with murder”.

A complete lion skeleton can be bought in South Africa for £1000 but in Vietnam it is worth £50,000 and the individual claws and teeth of a lion are highly prized.

A traditional healer from Limpopo who asked to remain anonymous said:

‘The lion body parts are used to make strong muti which is a witchcraft potion made by healers to cast spells.

These can be used to protect a person from illness or cure them or make them strong or virile or even used to scare enemies away or prevent them from being attacked”.

It is feared lion bones are now becoming sought after to replace the far rarer tiger bones in demand in South East Asia and are being smuggled out for use in traditional medicines.