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Wildlife trophy hunter shot dead ‘execution-style’ in South Africa

A trophy hunter who frequently boasted about the elephants, giraffes, lions and other wildlife animals he’s killed for fun has been shot by two unknown gunmen and left for dead in his car on the side of the road.

55-year-old Riaan Naude was gunned down “at close range” in the South African province of Limpopo, an area that includes part of the Kruger National Park wildlife reserve. Speaking to Maroela Media, Lieutenant Colonel Mamphaswa Seabi, a spokesperson for South Africa’s national police force, said that Naude was found “​​lying with his face up” with “blood on his head and face.”

The Heritage Protection Group, a not-for-profit group against rhino poaching, claims Naude was killed when he stopped on the side of the road after his truck overheated around 5 kilometres from Mokopane. Another vehicle is believed to have pulled up alongside his truck before two men got out and shot him “execution-style” on his head. The suspects then quickly drove off after stealing one of Naude’s guns.

“Police found two hunting rifles, ammunition, clothes, water, whiskey and pyjamas in the deceased’s [truck]. It looks like he was on his way to go hunting,” Seabi continued. “The motive for the attack and the subsequent murder is unknown at this stage.”

 

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A post shared by Riaan Naude (@pro_hunt_africa)

Naude ran Pro Hunt Africa, a business that describes itself as a “hunting and Eco Safari outfit” located in northernmost South Africa and working across South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. According to its website, Pro Hunt Africa specialises in “dangerous game and plains game hunting safaris with an emphasis on quality.”

As per its price list, the business charges $350 (£289) per day to hunt game, $2,500 (£2,064) to hunt crocodiles and $1,500 (£1,238) to kill a giraffe.

After news of Naude’s death hit the public, netizens have since flooded his Facebook and Instagram pages to highlight how the hunter became the hunted. “Justice has been served,” a user commented, while a second wrote, “Not a single tear lost for this awful human.”

“His murder clearly was his destiny, for he was the biggest murderer himself,” a third admitted. “Can’t say I am sorry to hear that this guy died the exact same way that he chose to kill all of these beautiful animals. An eye for an eye… Good riddance…”

A tiger stalked and killed a poacher for hunting its family before the viral elephant incident

On 10 June 2022, an elephant attacked a village in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district in India and killed a 70-year-old woman. It later came back, still enraged and trampled her corpse furiously at her funeral.

The attack is believed to have been in response to poaching incidents that may have occurred at some point prior to the horrific event. But this vicious revenge killing isn’t the only one of its kind to have happened in the past. Back in 2016, a tiger in Kerala mauled a poacher—who later died in the hospital—after it was revealed that he had killed its partner. Both of these incidents have even gone viral on TikTok, with users making memes and reaction videos out of the news:

@kcwinnie

#duet with @kcwinnie #ItsGreatOutdoors why is the whole animal kingdom beefing with this community #StJudeDadPhotos #foryou

♬ ac kangaudios - pj ☆ saw itzy & ateez

On Monday 10 June 2016, reports started circulating in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district that a tiger had killed a poacher out of revenge. This series of events began when forest officials in Palathdiyar arrested a man named Thamby for illicit activities in the jungle. He had also been accused of killing a tiger earlier in the year.

One member of Thamby’s group was an infamous poacher named Baby, who was killed by a tiger in March 2016. When arrested, Thamby confessed that his group had killed a tigress in February of the same year.

Ranni forest ranger KA Saju told The News Minute, “It was on 2 March that Baby was attacked and killed by the tiger. When we nabbed Thamby, he told us that they had killed a tigress on 27 February […] four days later, the group once again visited the same area to prepare arrack. Baby was alone for a while when the others went to get some vessels. It is then that one tiger attacked Baby. He was taken to a hospital but died on his way.”

Thamby later told police that the tiger that had attacked Baby could very well have been the partner of the tigress they had killed in February, implying that the carnivore had exacted a revenge killing on the poacher.

KA Saju was sceptical about these claims, however. “Thamby said it casually and we don’t have any proof of it […] Being a forest official for so many years, I have never heard of a tiger taking revenge for its partner’s death,” he admitted. “It may have happened but we are not sure about it.”

The argument on whether animals can hold grudges isn’t new.

Animal Planet’s predator expert David Salmoni told TIME that, “That tiger could have been surrounded by 10,000 people,” and if the animal had a mission, “it [would] avoid all of those people and just to go to those three people. There’s nothing more focused than a tiger who wants to kill something.”

@ahmexium

HELPPPPPP ME OFF THIS FLOOR 😭 @ahmexium #greenscreenvideo ( @ethan mlambo did something similar first 💚 ) #elephant #tiger

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He went into further detail, highlighting that what we see as a grudge can actually be conditional reinforcement in the carnivore’s case. “Any animal that can be trained can remember, and if you can remember, you can hold a grudge,” he explained.

According to Asiannet News, even though the tiger killed Baby, it continued to go after humans in the area. Tiger attacks became a regular occurence and CCTV that was installed confirmed the presence of a tiger. The Forest Department installed traps but they had had no luck in capturing the beast at the time of reporting.

What happened to the tiger remains to be seen, but from now on maybe you’ll think twice before provoking your cat or dog. Food for thought.