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Trophy hunter allegedly shelled out £30,000 for ‘pleasure’ of killing Zimbabwean lion

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Animal rights activists have claimed that an American killed the 12-year-old beast – who led two prides of lions – with a bow and arrow. This has yet to be confirmed and others claimed the lion – who was a favourite with tourists – was shot with a rifle.

Mopane is said to have suffered for 24 hours with his injuries before finally dying, according to the Sun.

The lion was said to have been lured from inside Zimbabwe’s protected Hwange National Park by hunters before being gunned down.

Former professional hunter and SAS operative Hannes Wessels confirmed the male lion had been killed – but said it was not clear who did it.

He said: “Nobody wants to talk about it, nor be named but it happened.

“Whatever you think about hunting — and it may be unpalatable to outsiders — it keeps poachers away.

“Wherever hunting is not allowed, poaching soars.

“It is more complicated than at first sight.”

Mopane’s death comes six years after beloved lion Cecil was gunned down in similar circumstances.

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The well-loved lion – who was being studied by a research team from Oxford University – was hunted down by American dentist Walter Palmer in the same area where Mopane was killed.

It caused international outrage at the time and led to vocal calls for the bloodspot to be banned.

Big-game hunting remains legal in Zimbabwe in designated areas.

The average 15-day hunting venture costs in the tens of thousands of pounds and attracts guests from across the world.

Of the 62 lions in Hwange National Park tagged over five years by Oxford University researchers during the early-2000s, 24 have since been shot dead by trophy hunters.

Kitty Block, president and CEO of the US Humane Society, told the New York Post that Mopane’s death was the latest example of a “perverse pleasure”.

She said: “Another trophy hunter spending tens of thousands of dollars on a globe-trotting, thrill-to-kill escapade shows humanity at its worst.

“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.”

Mr Palmer said he regretted killing Cecil in 2015, but insisted his actions were legal.

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