Durban - Tembe the lion, the pride of the KwaZulu-Natal elephant park from which he got his name, has been killed and his head cut off for suspected muti purposes.
The killing of one of the oldest lions in the park, on the border between Zululand and Mozambique, has been met with great sadness by conservationists, as well as the Tembe people and royal family.
KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife spokesman, Musa Mntambo, said yesterday that staff had come upon the rotting carcasses of Tembe and a sub-adult lioness on Monday.
They had been caught in snares.
Mntambo said a row of six snares had been found nearby and it was suspected they were set up by hunters who trapped nyala for meat.
The lioness was not beheaded.
Nkosi Mabhudu Tembe said he was deeply saddened by the loss of the lion, which he described as being a “friend of the Tembe people”.
The lion was in the pride translocated to the park in 2002 to complete the Big Five and grow the brand of Tembe Elephant Park, thereby attracting more tourists for the benefit of the people, he said. “He was part of the heritage of the park and his killing is a great loss to the royal house and the people of Tembe, his people.”
Mntambo said suspicions were that the lion’s head had been given or sold to a nyanga (healer) to make muti.
Ezemvelo had increased foot patrols in the park to try to catch the hunters who would return to check their snares.
Silwane Gumede, a nyanga in the uMhlabuyalingana area where muti is commonly used, confirmed that lion parts, mainly bones, were used to make muti. They were ground and mixed with other ingredients to make a potion “guaranteed” to make one strong like a lion, he said.