Two white lions were reportedly found decapitated and mutilated in South Africa.
The lions were found dead on a farm in the northern region of Limpopo, South Africa, on May 20. Poachers reportedly poisoned the animals before beheading them and chopping off their paws.
The poachers reportedly fed the lions a pesticide called Temik before killing them. It is believed that they mutilated the lions in order to use the animals' body parts for healing in black magic rituals.
"The poisoning of lions is a diabolical trend which is happening all over Africa," Dr. Pieter Kat of the animal charity LionAid told the Daily Express. "The removal of the head and paws of poisoned lions is ubiquitous and indicative of a black market trade in lion claws and teeth.
Popular VideoThis young teenage singer was shocked when Keith Urban invited her on stage at his concert. A few moments later, he made her wildest dreams come true.
"Breeding lions in captivity renders these animals very vulnerable to all forms of abuse and exploitation."
Local police in Limpopo said they have located a number of suspects who they believe may have been involved in the killing near the border between South Africa and Botswana, according to the Daily Mail.
"Members of the Lephalale Gauteng Police Force followed the suspects' tracks," a police spokesperson said, according to the Daily Express. "The suspects were picked up by a vehicle. Investigation will follow."
Popular VideoThis young teenage singer was shocked when Keith Urban invited her on stage at his concert. A few moments later, he made her wildest dreams come true:
An estimated 8,000 lions are bred in captivity on South African farms.
"The lions [raised on these farms] are often sold to facilities which offer 'walking' experiences with lions," an anonymous source told the Daily Express. "The final journey for most of these hand-reared lions is as a trophy to be mounted on a hunter's wall."
According to animal rights activists, most of the 1,000 lions killed each year in South Africa were hunted while in captivity, the Daily Mail reports. Safari companies participating in the country's "canned," or captive, hunting industry offer wealthy tourists an opportunity to hunt animals in their care.
An undercover investigation into the industry revealed that these companies would sometimes send out catalogs to prospective hunters so that customers may select the animal they would like to kill in advance. The price for these excursions reportedly range from $5,400 to $48,000, depending on size and condition of the animal being hunted.
Ian Michler, a longtime critic of the captive hunting industry, said only five South African lions were killed in the wild in 2015, according to the Daily Mail.