Iconic elephant in Zimbabwe killed by tourist
Unnamed killer's $83,000 trophy hunt sparks outrage
A German tourist has killed one of the biggest elephants seen for years in Zimbabwe, wildlife groups said, reviving the fierce debate over trophy hunting after the shooting of Cecil the lion.
The unnamed hunter was reported to have paid US$60,000 (S$83,000) to shoot the male elephant, which was at least 50 years old, on private land near the border with South Africa.
The incident has sparked condemnation by tour operators and conservation groups.
"This elephant, which was more than 50 years old, was shot and killed outside Gonarezhou National Park last Thursday," Emmanuel Fundira, chairman of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe (SOAZ), told AFP.
Mr Fundira said the elephant was "so huge its tusks were almost hitting the ground while it was standing.
"We have never seen any animal that big."
Mr Fundira said that SOAZ believed that the animal should have been treated as a "national treasure" rather than killed.
"We need to discipline ourselves and hold such iconic things sacred," he said.
Johnny Rodrigues, chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, said the elephant's tusks weighed 54kg.
"We are disgusted," he said. "It's wrong to kill an iconic animal like that. The last time one was seen (of such size) was more than 40 years ago. The hunter should not have shot it."
The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority (ZimParks) said the hunt was legal.
"On the 7th of October 2015, an adult male elephant was hunted as a trophy by a foreign client through a locally registered safari company in Malipati Safari area," the ZimParks statement said.
It said the area was "allocated sustainable quotas and hunting permits for all wildlife species including elephants on annual basis".
Malipati is adjacent to Gonarezhou National Park, and the two game parks hold 11,452 elephants, ZimParks said, dismissing reports that the elephant hunt took place inside the national park.
In July, American dentist Walter Palmer incensed animal rights activists worldwide when he shot and killed Cecil the lion with a powerful bow and arrow.
Zimbabwe had abandoned its bid to press charges against Mr Palmer, saying his papers "were in order" and that he did not know he was committing an offence.