A German hunter has shot and killed one of the biggest bull elephants seen in Zimbabwe in three decades, a local hunters’ group said on Friday, just days after the country declined to prosecute a foreign hunter for killing a lion that had become a national landmark.
The unidentified German hunter shot the elephant this month outside Gonarezhou National Park, in the south of the country, said Louis Muller, chairman of the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association. The elephant had rarely been seen until it was killed this month, Muller said. It was believed to be more than 40 years old, with tusks that weighed 55 kgs (121 pounds) each, the biggest recorded in Zimbabwe in 30 years, he said.
The elephant’s death echoed the killing in July of Cecil, a rare black-maned lion and well-known denizen of Hwange National Park in western Zimbabwe. Cecil’s death sparked international outrage, but earlier this week the government said it would not charge the American dentist, Walter Palmer, who brought him down.
The killing was legal, the government said, because Palmer had the right permits when he shot Cecil with a bow and arrow outside the park. Similarly, according to the British newspaper the Telegraph, the elephant was shot by the German hunter on Oct. 8 in a private hunting concession bordering Gonarezhou after he paid $60,000 for a hunting permit.
Elephants are known to live up to 70 years in the wild, and Muller said the dead bull was at least 40. “It was a majestic animal,” he said. He confirmed the tusks were the largest seen in three decades, and added that “in the hunting fraternity anything above 80 pounds is incredible. If you shoot something over a 100 pounds it is really, really incredible.”
Zimbabwe generated $45 million from big game hunting in 2014, according to the national parks agency, mostly from wealthy hunters from United States and Europe. But the anger over Cecil’s killing brought unwanted attention to Africa’s multi-million-dollar hunting business. Muller said, however, the fact the elephant had seldom been seen before it was killed was a sign that Zimbabwe’s animal conservation efforts were paying off. “There is an increase of these big bulls from the previous decade, so that tells us we are doing something right in Zimbabwe. The (hunting) quota system is working,” Muller said.
His association proposed last November locating and putting GPS collars on all Zimbabwe’s big bull elephants to boost tourism, Muller said. The authorities have not yet considered the proposal, he said. Meanwhile, the parks agency said 26 more elephant carcasses had been discovered in Hwange National Park. That brings to 40 the total number of elephants poisoned by cyanide by suspected poachers in less than a month.