A couple in South Africa has been arrested on Monday, Dec. 20, after they were busted harboring a dead lion’s severed head inside their backpack, in what police officers believe was an attempt to sell off the gruesome trophy to witch doctors in the area.

Fifty-nine-year-old Joseph Modime and 54-year-old Emily Mashaba were allegedly trying to sell the dismembered remains of the lion for an astounding $23,473. Police officers subsequently found out about their endeavor and attempted to entrap them by posing as middlemen between the duo and a traditional healer, The Witness reported.

The crime was in violation of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004.

“They were intercepted by police who had arranged for a traditional healer to be at a petrol station where a lion’s head was found in a backpack wrapped in refuse bags,” National Prosecuting Authority Henry Mamothame said.

Police officers are still investigating as to where Modime and Mashaba were able to procure a severed lion’s head, with a farm specifically made to kill lions for their bones as well as a dead poached lion in the wild being some of the possible leads pursued, according to the New York Post.

Lion’s bones are popularly used by witch doctors in the area and in Asia to craft potions relating to black magic. Its popular use has led to incidents of breeding and murdering lions for the sole purpose of their use in these rituals.

It is believed that there are over 3,000 lion farms in South Africa whose trade mainly revolves around Vietnam and China, where they use the body parts for medicinal and reportedly magical procedures.

Investigators are hoping that the further they look into this case, the closer they can get to find out who is supplying these body parts, with the end hope of stopping similar illegal trade from ever occurring again.

A lion's head was found in the backpack of South African couple Joseph Modime and Emily Mashaba, in what authorities believe was an attempt for them to sell the head off to a reputed witch doctor. This is a representational image. Ingo Stiller/Unsplash.

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