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Another Cecil the lion? Fresh fury after big cat shot dead by foreign hunter in Zimbabwe

Mopane was about 12-years-old when he was shot by a bow and arrow

A second well-known Zimbabwean lion has been shot dead by a foreign big game hunter just yards from where Cecil the lion was killed by an American dentist in 2015. Mopane, who is survived by two mates and litters of cubs, was about 12-years-old when he was shot by a bow and arrow in the Gwaai district of western Zimbabwe last week. The case has spurred social media protests by scores of anti-hunting activists calling for tighter regulation of bowhunting, which first came under scrutiny following the death of Cecil.

"With a very heavy heart, we sadly report the senseless killing of another amazing black-maned, breeding age lion outside the sanctuary that is Hwange NP," Pamela Robinson, the founder of the Cecil the Lion campaign group, wrote on Facebook. The group said it had warned several times in recent years that safari companies were planning to hunt Mopane.

Mopane with another lion

Like Cecil, who died in 2015, Mopane appears to have been wounded on a night bow shoot, and only put out of his agony the following day. Trophy hunting is legal in Zimbabwe provided it is properly licensed, and the industry is a key source of revenue for the country's conservation agencies.

All hunts have to be bought from the Parks Authority, and funds generated by commercial hunting fund most running costs of national parks and anti-poaching operations. “The hunt was legal, so why is there this noise? As long as the animal, this lion, was six years old, it was a legal hunt,” said Tinashe Farawo of Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

He said there was also no restriction on hunting in the area where Mopane was shot. “We know hunting is facing a lot of pressure across the globe,” he said. But critics say that while legal, bow hunting causes unnecessary suffering. They also claim Mopane, whose distinctive black mane was well known in the area, would not have been killed if the tourists had hired conscientious guides who understood the local ecosystem.

Some of the last ever images taken of Cecil the lion, whose death in 2015 caused uproar CREDIT: BRENT STAPELKAMP

Dentist Walter James Palmer, who shot Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe.

“Zimbabwe’s professional hunters really cleaned up their act after Cecil’s death, and would never have shot Mopane, as they knew he was being studied by WildCRU," said one Zimbabwean wildlife expert, referring to Oxford University's Conservation Research Unit: "These hunters believe there are not enough lions in this area (in the Gwaai district) for hunting," he added.

Growing numbers of foreign hunters, mainly from the US, Mexico, and Russia, have bought hunts in Zimbabwe since the end of summer rains six months ago. For the safari industry, that is good news. Last year, after Covid-19 emerged in Zimbabwe nearly all foreign hunters and tourists from around the world avoided the country. Zimbabwe and South Africa are both on the UK's Covid-19 red list. The two tourists involved in hunting Mopane bought their hunting trip and hired guides from Chattaronga Safaris, which operates from South Africa’s northern Limpopo Province and advertises bow hunting as its speciality. The Telegraph understands the second hunter on the safari shot and killed a leopard, also with a bow. Unlike Cecil, Mopane was not wearing a blue WildCRU collar when he died. “Mopane was a delinquent in his youth, chasing vehicles and being aggressive to guides if they got too close," said the wildlife official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “But as his years grew he settled for a quiet life protecting his pride and cubs. He will now be strung up on someone’s wall as a trophy, leaving behind his females to protect his two litters of cubs,” he added. Repeated calls to Johan and Philip Kruger, the two operators named on the Chattaronga Safaris website, went unanswered this week.

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