Alongside the eight adult lions that were killed, two of the lionesses were within 24 hours of giving birth to three cubs each. Cubs drank from their poisoned moms milk. They all died.
Gert Blom, who owns Predators Rock Bush Lodge in Rustenburg, first became suspicious when he couldn’t hear the pride’s usual roars at dawn on Friday.
The 51-year-old then went down to their enclosure and discovered they were missing. After following drag trails, he found them all butchered behind a perimeter wall.
Mr Blom described it as an ‘absolutely terrible sight’.
He said: “They had hacked off 32 paws for the claws and eight of their snouts for their teeth after killing them with poisoned chicken which is a really agonising death for the lions.
“It is cruelty that is beyond belief and an absolutely terrible sight to behold when you see magnificent predators lying there covered in flies minus their faces and their paws.”
The poachers laced chicken carcasses with Aldicarb, a poison locally known as ‘Two Step’, which is often used by burglars to kill guard dogs by paralysing the respiratory system.
It is believed the paws and teeth were hacked off the lions for use by witch doctors, who use them in black magic potions to ward off evil spirits or bring luck.
Mr Blom said: “They got over two 2.4m game fences and a 2.4m brick wall then threw poisoned chicken carcasses into the lion enclosure which is protected by a final electric fence.
“When the lions were dead they used bolt croppers on the gates to avoid the electric wires around the top and then dragged the lions behind out and behind a wall to butcher them.
“We have found four sets of footprints so we know there were four poachers here.
“Two of the lionesses were about to give birth which makes this all the more tragic. With the eight dead cubs – six unborn and the two that were almost certainly poisoned from their mother’s milk – that means the poachers effectively killed 16 lions.
“They did this to this magnificent animals just for their teeth and their claws.”
The only slight consolation for Mr Blom is that one cub, named Yoda, didn’t drink her mother’s milk, and she is now bottle-feeding her.
South African Police spokesman, Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone, said: “Eight lions were killed and we are investigating the crime but as of now there have no arrests of anyone yet.”