The victim was attacked on Friday night. His remains were discovered on Saturday at a private game reserve near Kruger National Park, Sky News reported.
“It seems the victim was poaching in the game park when he was attacked and killed by lions,” Limpopo police spokesman Moatshe Ngoepe told AFP. “They ate his body, nearly all of it, and just left his head and some remains.”
A loaded hunting rifle was found near the remains.
Initial reports indicated that the victim may have been a farmworker whose tractor stalled and was attacked by the lions as he attempted to walk home, local news site The Citizen reported. That man was later found safe.
Now, authorities believe the dead man was trying to illegally hunt the protected big cats. They are still working to identify the body.
“The process of identifying the deceased has already commenced and it might be made possible by the fact that his head is amongst the remains that were found at the scene,” Ngoepe told SowetanLIVE.
South Africa’s IOL said several lions were poisoned in the same region last year. Their heads and paws were also chopped off.
National Geographic reported that the region was known more for rhino poaching rather than lion poaching. However, lion parts are sometimes used in traditional medicine.