Wildlife park owner Christa Saayman was left horrified after six of her lions were brutally butchered for their body parts to be used in black magic rituals.
Poachers hacked the heads and paws off four fully grown lions and also killed two cubs.
The animals were poisoned then mutilated at the Mystic Monkeys & Feathers Wildlife Park, just north of Pretoria, the capital of
Two white lions called Aslem and Aiden, who were a favourite for tourists, met a horrific death, as did brown lion Sussie, lioness Jessie and the two lion cubs.
Park owner Christa, 55, said: 'It was cruel, inhumane and devastating. I don't have words to describe how I feel. I am so sad. What we woke up to here was just dreadful.
'This was a senseless and heartless act by people who robbed us of six beautiful animals. To see these majestic lions so mutilated was just such a pitiful disgrace.
'Just as we thought we were playing our part in the conservation and awareness and protection of these animals then you have people who come and do this to them.'
A manhunt is underway for the culprits with security company Hi-Risk Unit said to be hot on the trail of the killers and offering a £15,000 reward for information.
Distraught Christa said she was woken in the early hours of Saturday at 4.30am after a police patrol chased a group of suspicious men away from the park perimeter.
One of the fleeing suspects dropped a backpack and other workers at the park have identified the clothes inside as belonging to an employee who has since vanished.
Christa said: 'At that stage I did not connect the incident at all with the lions.
'It was only when the worker in charge of feeding the lions shouted in shock around 7am when he discovered the remains of the butchered lions in their compounds.
'You cannot imagine the gruesomeness of the scene. I had the workers take their bodies and burn the remains that afternoon. It was the saddest day of my life'.
The South African Police Service, who are investigating, said the suspects threw chickens heavily laced with poison over the electric fences to kill the six lions.
Christa said: 'None of the fences were cut and they bypassed the electric fences so I am convinced it is an inside job but our security company has a lot of information.
'It is so heart breaking as these lions were raised from cubs and bottle fed and then people come and do this to use their bones and claws and teeth for witchcraft.
'It is just so sad and I keep asking myself why they have come here and done this.'
Lion whisperer Charmaine Joubert, who was like a mother to the butchered lions, said she could not describe how she felt, saying: 'I loved all of them dearly.
'I spend much of my free time playing with them and was with them last week and were were playing together. They were my children, my life, I am shattered'.
Limpopo police said they had launched a manhunt for the suspects.
Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe said: 'An employee noticed bloodstains followed by the gruesome discovery of four lions dead with their heads and paws chopped off.
The two lion cubs were also dead but with no missing body parts'.
A traditional healer from Limpopo who would not give her name said:'The lion body parts are used to make strong muti which is a witchcraft potion to cast spells.
'This can be used to protect a person from illness or to make them strong or virile.
'It can be used by a person to scare their enemies or protect them from attack or the potions can be made to make a person strong or respected or feared by others.'
Dr Kelly Marnewick of the Endangered Wildlife Trust has been keeping a close track of mutilated lions poached and killed on private breeding farms and sanctuaries.
She said:'Mostly it is the claws, heads and teeth of the lions the poachers are after. It is a relatively new occurrence and it is something we are watching closely.
'In 2017 there were 22 captive lions poached on farms where lions are used to being fed. They are vulnerable and it's an easy way to get your hands on lion parts'.
It is feared that lion bones are also being used to replace the far rarer tiger bones in South East Asia and are being smuggled out for use in traditional medicines.
A complete lion skeleton can be bought in South Africa for £1000 but in Vietnam it is worth £50,000 and the individual claws and teeth of the lion are highly prized.
In April lion park owner Gert Claasens, 48, had three of his lions butchered for heads and claws and three stolen to be butchered later in Petrus Steyn in the Free State.
The following month Justin Fernandes, 32, had 3 lions and a rare golden tabby tiger killed by poachers at the Jugomaro Predator Park in Limpopo for their body parts.
Christa, 55, who has a 1000 acre animal park which has 53 tigers and 10 lions along with 350 monkey and birds said:'We are trying to conserve and save animals.
'But then these people come along and do these terrible things to them' she said.