Poachers Killed By The Animals They Were Hunting: A List Of Gruesome Stories And Irony

Animals in History | December 3, 2020

(Claude Kleynhans/Instagram)

It never feels good to celebrate the death of another human, but when a poacher is killed by an animal they're hunting, the irony is almost irresistible. It's hard not to cheer on nature when it fights back against its oppressors, especially given how poaching, specifically big game hunting, is destroying the ecosystem.

Claude Kleynhans

Claude Kleynhans was a South African trophy hunter who spent years poaching animals across the continent. His company, Guwela Safaris, offered customers a menu of animals to kill and bragged that each trip guaranteed a "100% success" rate.

That success ended during a buffalo hunt in 2018. On May 22, Kleynhans shot and killed an African buffalo in the northern Limpopo Province of South Africa, but as he and his hunting party celebrated while loading the carcass into their vehicle, they were attacked by another buffalo from the same herd. The animal charged Kleynhans and gored him in the groin, severing his femoral artery and instantly killing him. His sister-in-law told a local news outlet, "He loved what he did. He died doing what he loved."

(Entropy1963/Wikimedia Commons)

Unidentified Pants And Skull

In 2019, rangers at Kruger National Park in South Africa discovered little more a human skull and pair of pants on the park grounds. They believe a man suspected of poaching rhinos was killed by an elephant before his remains were devoured by a pack of lions.

The man's associates were arrested by rangers shortly after the discovery and later explained that they were attempting to bag a rhino when they were attacked by an elephant. A search of the area yielded not much more of the poacher's remains, and the park's managing executive, Glenn Phillips, warned the public, "Entering Kruger National Park illegally and on foot is not wise. It holds many dangers, and this incident is evidence of that."

(Benh Lieu Song/Wikimedia Commons)

Sibuya Game Reserve Poachers

When a group of poachers sneaked onto the Sibuya Game Reserve in 2018, they were attempting to hunt rhino, but they soon became the prey after a pride of six lions got to them first. In a statement following the discovery of their remains, South African Police Service Captain Mali Govender explained that while the park's anti-poaching unit did know someone was on their land, they "never suspected anything [was] wrong because it was the lions making noise and not the rhinos ... It was a bit of luck for us and not so much luck for them."

(Dewet/Wikimedia Commons)

Scott Van Zyl

Scott Van Zyl was a longtime crocodile hunter. He spent much of his adult life hunting the animal up and down the Zimbabwe–South Africa border, often took his children and clients on hunts, and often received permission to kill the animals. In 2017, however, he went on his final hunt. The local tracker he'd traveled with knew something was up when Zyl's dogs returned to the poacher's camp alone, and his footprints led back to the river bank, where they ended by his rucksack. After some investigation, Zyl's remains were found inside one of the crocodiles he was hunting. It turns out the crocodiles don't care much about passes or permission.

(Simon Sparks/Facebook)

Theunis Botha

Known for taking out leopards with a set of trained hounds, Theunis Botha was killed by an elephant in 2017 when the dying animal fell on top of him. The hunter was on a "licensed 10-day hunt" when he and his group found a herd of elephants in the midst of their breeding ritual. Botha zeroed in on the elephants, psyched for the opportunity to treat his guests to a real deal hunting safari, but his specialty was big cats. He likely didn't anticipate the animals' response to the threat he represented. Sure enough, sensing danger, the elephants charged the group, prompting the poachers to open fire on the animals. Botha was lifted from the ground by one animal before it was shot, and the elephant collapsed with Botha still in its clutches, crushing him to death.

(Appaloosa/Wikimedia Commons)

Vladimir Moarkov

Vladimir Moarkov was hunting tigers in the far east region of Russia in winter 1997 when he shot and wounded a tiger who was in the middle of a feast, took its kill, and left the animal for dead. This proved to be a huge mistake. The wounded tiger stalked Markov back to his cabin, destroyed everything that smelled like him, and then waited by the door for Markov to return. After somewhere between 12 and 48 hours, the tiger got its chance, dragged Markov into a bush, and ate him.

Tags: animals | crime | death

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Jacob Shelton


Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.