A hunter has shot dead what is believed to be the biggest elephant killed for “sport” in Africa for 30 years, according to reports.
The animal, one of the largest elephants ever seen in Zimbabwe, was killed on 8 October in an area set aside for private hunting, which borders the Gonarezhou National Park,
A German hunter reportedly paid about £39,000 (77,681 CAD) for a permit to shoot a large bull elephant and was led by an experienced local guide.
Organizers of the hunt declined to name the hunter, who went to Zimbabwe to shoot the so-called Big Five of targets: an elephant, a leopard, a lion, a buffalo and a rhinoceros.
Elephants are being killed at such a rate – mainly by poachers – that there are fears they could become extinct within a generation.
Anthony Kaschula, who runs a photographic safari company, took pictures of the hunt and posted them on his Facebook page, but appeared to have removed them.
He wrote on the page that the elephant should not have been killed.
“We have no control over poaching but we do have control over hunting policy that should acknowledge that animals such as this one are of far more value alive (to both hunters and non-hunters) than dead,” he said.
“Individual elephants such as these should be accorded their true value as a national heritage and should be off limits to hunting.
“In this case, we have collectively failed to ensure that legislation is not in place to help safeguard such magnificent animals.”
Louis Muller, chairman of the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters & Guides Association, said the hunters had not realised the elephant was so large when the German man fired the fatal shot.
“He [the local hunter] told me when he and his client were stalking this elephant he saw the tusks were big but did not realise just how big until afterwards and he saw them close,” he told the Telegraph.
“He is going back to see if he can find the lower jaw and bring it back so we can accurately age this elephant.
“We checked everywhere and this elephant has never been seen before, not in Zimbabwe nor Kruger [the national park in South Africa]. We would have known it because its tusks are huge.
“There have been five or six giant tuskers shot in the last year or so, and we knew all of them, but none as big as this one.”
Hunting websites speculated that this elephant was the biggest shot in Africa for three decades.
Poachers are thought to kill around 50,000 elephants a year in order to supply the illegal ivory trade, as well as providing bushmeat and ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine.
In July, an American dentist sparked an international uproar when he shot dead a lion known as Cecil with a bow and arrow. The 13-year-old animal, who was fitted with a tracking collar, was being studied by researchers and was well known for being friendly towards humans.
The killing sparked global outrage over the hunting of endangered animals.