A mystery bow hunter — suspected to be an American — is sparking international outcry after hunting down and killing a beloved male lion named Mopane earlier this month in Zimbabwe.
The tragedy, which took place at Hwange National Park, reportedly occurred Aug. 5 after an unnamed American had allegedly tracked down the majestic 12-year-old Mopane with the help of Dennis Nyakane, a guide for South African hunting operator Chattaronga Safaris, according to online reports. He had also allegedly enlisted the services of Dinguzulu Safaris ZTA HOP 0257, the same operator responsible for the infamous killing of Cecil the lion in 2015.
“The perverse pleasure some people derive from killing iconic animals brought this noble lion’s life to a tragic end,” Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, told The Post of the incident. “Another trophy hunter spending tens of thousands of dollars on a globe-trotting, thrill-to-kill escapade shows humanity at its worst.”
The Post has attempted to contact the alleged US hunter, who is the subject of an aggressive social media watchdog campaign despite the fact that his identity has not been confirmed at this point.
As with Cecil, the coalition of big-game hunters had used bait to lure the male lion to Antoinette, a hunting concession bordering the unfenced Hwange National Park. This was reportedly the same spot where Cecil was allegedly gunned down six years ago.
It was unclear whether the lion was eventually killed with another arrow or a bullet; however, he reportedly survived for a full day following the shot before finally succumbing to his injuries. Mopane’s actual time of death is unknown.
It remains unclear if Mopane was intentionally lured to his death or if he simply happened upon the bait. However, the regal beast was apparently known to cross boundaries as his territory straddled both the park and game preserve.
This marks a tragic end for Mopane, who was “was well-known to local tour guides and international tourists visiting the area to catch a glimpse of him,” according to a press release from the Humane Society. The lion king also was dominant over two prides: Mopane had formed a coalition with another male lion named Sidhule, and the two males presided over two adult females and six sub-adults of about 16 to 18 months old. Sidhule was also killed by a trophy hunter in 2019 despite a local petition to protect him and his fellow pride male.
“Mopane was a father and played a significant role in his pride,” Block, who is also CEO of Humane Society International, told The Post. “Without him, his pride is now vulnerable to takeover by another male or group of males, which may lead to the killing of the cubs and females in his pride.”
It’s unlikely the perpetrators will be brought to justice, as the hunt was not illegal, according to Zimbabwe law. Online reports alleged that Mopane was advertised as a trophy specimen via social media on Dec. 5, 2020, by Big Game Safaris International.
“Do you want a chance to take a big free roaming lion?” the hunting operator allegedly wrote in the apparently since-deleted post, adding that Mopane was the “most aggressive lion in our hunting block.”
While the African lion is protected under the US Endangered Species Act, the US Fish and Wildlife Service authorizes big game hunters to import trophy-hunted lions and other exotic species into the country.
“Until we have a properly implemented regulatory framework that upholds the conservation mandate in federal law, this is little more than lawless carnage,” Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said in a statement.
Currently, the United States is the world’s biggest importer of trophy animals, importing more trophies than the entire European Union, according to a March 2021 report by tradecities.org.