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10 Stories Of Animals That Fought Back Against Poachers

by Mark Oliver
fact checked by Jamie Frater

In the last 10 years, elephants killed 800 people in the state of Assam, India, alone. Assam is an extreme case, but it’s not the only place where animals are starting to fight back. Over the last few decades, attacks by elephants have been on a steady rise.

According to expert Gay Bradshaw, the animals have just reached a breaking point. They’ve suffered through decades of poaching, culling, and habitat loss, and many have had to watch while their families and babies are killed and severed.

Bradshaw believes that this is a sort of animal revolt—a time when the animals of the wild are turning against their abusers by becoming more aggressive than ever before.

The result has been some absolutely chilling stories of animal attacks. Be warned—these aren’t for the faint of heart.

10 The Tiger That Hunted Man

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The tiger was one of the biggest ever to grace Siberian wilderness. It weighed somewhere between 225–320 kilograms (500–700 lb). When Vladimir Markov spotted the animal, it was feeding.

Markov only had an unlicensed gun and a few homemade bullets. Times were tough, and he was struggling to keep himself fed. To him, the eviscerated deer that the tiger was eating looked like a five-star meal. And so he fired a shot, hitting the tiger in the leg to scare it off, and dragged away its half-eaten food.

Markov thought that would be the end of the story, but the tiger would not let this go. It followed Markov’s scent back to the cabin in which he lived. When the tiger saw that Markov wasn’t there, it waited for him to return—no matter how long it took.

The tiger waited near the front door up to 48 hours for Markov to come home. When he did, the tiger pounced.[1]

When investigators found Markov, all that remained were a few stumps of bone sticking out of his boots, a bloodied shirt with an arm still inside, a severed hand, and a head with the face torn clean off the skull.

9 The Rhino That Fought Back

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Luteni Muharukua was part of a gang of poachers. Under the cover of night, he and his cohorts would sneak into the Etosha National Park in Namibia, a protected wildlife area where rhinoceroses roamed. The men were on the hunt for the animals’ horns.

They’d been tracking a particular rhino for a while, but the group had lost sight of him. They were searching through the dark, trying to figure out where the rhinoceros had gone. However, the animal hadn’t lost sight of them for a second.

The men heard the trampling of the rhino’s feet, pounding closer and closer from behind. Then they saw it stampeding forward with that valuable horn pointed directly at them.

The poachers ran. In his panic, Muharukua tripped and collapsed onto the ground. The rhinoceros crushed his leg and pounced on him, tearing his tendons apart.

His friends risked their lives to save Muharukua. Through a great deal of luck, they managed to carry his broken body up a mountain where they hid from the rhinoceros until daybreak. When the police found them in the morning, it was almost a relief to have their wrists in chains.[2]

8 The Lions That Left Only A Head

Park Rangers awoke to a horrifying sight one morning inside South Africa’s Kruger National Park. There, inside the protected wildlife area, they found the severed head of a man lying next to a hunting rifle and a pack of ammunition.

The man’s body had been torn to shreds by a pride of lions. They had licked his bones clean and left nothing but a grisly visage behind.[3]

The man couldn’t tell his own story, but the gruesome scene made much of it clear. He was undoubtedly a poacher, a man who hunted lions to sell their bones for traditional medicines. Clearly, his last hunt hadn’t gone well.

As horrifying as his death was, there may have been a kind of a karmic justice in it. Just a few months before, three male lions had been found dead in the park, their heads and paws chopped off.

Nobody could know for sure if this was the same man who’d cut off those lions’ heads. But perhaps on some level, the lions remembered what had happened to their pride. Perhaps with the man’s death, they were extracting some cruel breed of animal revenge.

7 The Elephant That Crushed A Man In His Trunk

Photo credit: The Independent

Theunis Botha made his living inviting wealthy Americans out to the wilds of South Africa and taking them trophy hunting. His signature move was using a pack of dogs to drive terror into those massive, African beasts, herding them into place so that he—and anyone willing to slip him a few dollars—could gun them down.

During his last hunt, the animals struck back. He’d led his party toward a herd of elephants that must have realized the threat posed by Botha and his friends. Before they could fire their rifles, three of the elephants stampeded toward the hunters.

Botha and his friends opened fire. But in the chaos, they didn’t notice the fourth elephant that was coming around to their side. Catching the hunter off guard, the animal wrapped its trunk around Botha’s torso and pulled him into the air.[4]

Botha’s friends thought that they were saving his life when they starting shooting at the elephant that was manhandling him. Instead, they sent the elephant and Botha crashing to the ground. Botha hit the dirt first. Then the elephant came down on top of him, crushing him under more than 4,500 kilograms (10,000 lb) of weight.

6 The Crocodile That Ate His Hunter

Photo credit: The Telegraph

Scott Van Zyl had hunted crocodiles for years. Like Botha, he’d made his living by helping foreign clients hunt big game, and he felt little fear wandering into the wildernesses of South Africa and Zimbabwe. When he separated from his guide and went into crocodile-infested waters, everyone expected that he would return home.

After a few days, though, Van Zyl’s friends became worried. A team sent to find him followed his tracks into a river that was overrun with crocodiles. With a deep worry sinking into their hearts, they shot two of the crocodiles and took them back to town. There, they confirmed their worst fear: Van Zyl was being digested inside one of the animals’ stomachs.

We can’t completely say what happened, but it’s possible that Van Zyl didn’t see the crocodile lying in wait in the shallows. After all, that is where a croc will usually wait before snatching its prey with its powerful jaws. Then the croc twirls the prey with a death roll into the river. There, the croc holds its prey’s head underwater until the prey drowns.

Ultimately, the authorities allowed three crocs to be killed in the hunt for Van Zyl. As later confirmed by DNA tests, his remains were found inside one of the animals.[5]

5 The Lions That Saved A Rhino’s Life

Photo credit: BBC

Rhino poachers carry axes and wire cutters with them when they sneak into parks. For them, the horns are the only valuable part of a rhinoceros. So the poachers leave the animal’s lifeless body in the dirt with a great gaping hole peeled open in its head.

That was what a gang of poachers thought they would leave when they sneaked into South Africa’s Sibuya Game Reserve. During their hunt, though, they stumbled upon something that no wire cutter could protect them from—a massive pride of lions.[6]

Nobody’s sure how many poachers were in that group, which was overrun by lions. What was left of the hunters was so mangled and shredded that it’s impossible to say how many people were once there.

When the anti-poaching team arrived, the lions were still picking at the remains of their victims. There were too many lions to count. The men who’d been attacked couldn’t have lasted long.

4 The Elephant That Fought Off Four Poachers

A group of four poachers had been hunting in the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary for an hour when they heard the stampeding feet of an elephant. By then, though, it was too late. In the pitch-black of the night, they hadn’t been able to see the animal and now it was just inches away from trampling them.

The elephant immediately mauled two of the poachers, Tony and Basil, throwing them around like rag dolls. Basil was crushed so badly that his spinal cord was permanently injured from the attack, but his wounds were nothing compared to Tony’s. When Tony hit the ground, his gun went off and he shot himself through the thigh.

The other two poachers had to drag their friends off and get them as far away from the rampaging elephant as they could. Tony was in a rough state. His lungs had been crushed, and with his leg bleeding out, he wasn’t able to walk on his own.

The men rushed to the hospital, ready to confess every one of their crimes if they could just save their friends’ lives. For Basil, it worked. He was given the treatment he needed to make it through alive, though he’ll be lucky if he ever walks again.

But it was too late for Tony. His crushed lungs gave out at the hospital.[7]

3 The Elephant They Couldn’t Take Down

Armed with unlicensed weapons, Solomon Manjoro and Noluck Tafuruka sneaked into Charara National Park in Zimbabwe. They were on the hunt for jumbo elephants that they weren’t legally permitted to kill.

They had done this before and were sure they could pull it off again. They would shoot the elephants, saw off their tusks, and sell their ivory at an incredible profit.

They tracked down a jumbo elephant, raised their guns, and fired, expecting the elephant to fall down like every one before it. This time, though, their targeted elephant was too big for their rifles. It didn’t fall. It didn’t even slow down. It just turned around to face them and charged.

Tafuruka ran for his life while Manjoro readied his gun to fire another shot. Manjoro quickly realized that he’d made the wrong choice. The elephant trampled him underfoot, crushing him to death.[8]

Tafuruka ended up in prison. In the chaos, another man who’d helped to fund them was also thrown in jail. All things considered, those two had been lucky. Manjoro’s mangled body, still lying out there in the park, was a testament to just how badly things could have gone.

2 The Hippos And Lions That Fought Together

Nobody’s quite sure just what finished off the poacher found in Kruger National Park.

He and two other poachers had sneaked in there at night, intent on searching the illegal traps they had set up a little earlier. On their way to check them, though, they came across a herd of hippopotamuses, the creatures that kill more humans than any other wild animals.

The hippos charged toward the poachers, sending them scrambling in a desperate flight for their lives. Two of them were lucky enough to get away. The third was caught by one of the stampeding beasts. Likely, he was crushed in one of their jaws, thrown into the air, and left for dead.

It’s not entirely clear whether the man was really dead at this point. It’s possible that he was still alive when the hippos left him. If so, he would have seen the pride of lions that swarmed in, surrounded his crumpled body, and started to pick away at his flesh.

By the time he was found, all that was left was some shredded clothing and the shattered pieces of his skull, every inch licked clean.[9]

1 The Assam Elephant Rampage

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There’s no place where animals have been more brutal than the first area we mentioned: Assam, India. Hundreds of people have been killed by wild elephants there in just 10 years.

Few of the people attacked in Assam are poachers. Instead, most are innocent farmers who have had to deal with invading elephants nearly as often as the rest of the world’s farmers encounter groundhogs and rabbits.

After killing an elephant that was destroying his crops, one farmer ruefully admitted, “I’d sinned by killing him. But I had to save my crops—or what would my family eat?”

Elephant habitats in Assam have slowly dwindled away due to human expansion, and those on protected lands have had to deal with aggressive poachers. Over the last 15 years, 225 wild elephants and 239 rhinos have been killed by poachers and other human means.

With no safe place to live, the elephants have been swarming into the town. Some have wandered into the middle of cities and, frightened, slaughtered the people inside. Another herd wandered straight onto some train tracks and let a speeding train plow right into their bodies.

In Assam, the humans are helping the elephants back. Anti-poaching teams have started using elephants as massive living bulldozers to knock over houses that have encroached on the elephants’ territory and to chase poachers out. Their hope is that the elephant attacks will stop if the territory goes back to how it was.

If not, the experts fear the worse. As Assam conservationist Saurav Barkataky puts it: “We could be the last generation to cohabit with the magnificent Asian mammals.”[10]


Read more fascinating stories about poaching on 10 Hunters Who Became The Hunted and 10 Groundbreaking Ideas To Combat African Poaching.

fact checked by Jamie Frater
Mark Oliver

Mark Oliver is a regular contributor to Listverse. His writing also appears on a number of other sites, including The Onion's StarWipe and His website is regularly updated with everything he writes.

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