A well-known male lion in Zimbabwe, named Mopane (or Mopani), is confirmed to have been killed by a hunter who, according to unconfirmed reports, may have been South African. Conservationists had petitioned over the last few years for Mopane to be protected from hunters.
There has been an outcry today as Mopane’s pride, the Somadada Pride, are now apparently left unprotected and vulnerable. According to Drew Abrahamson, owner and founder of Captured in Africa (CIA) Foundation, the remaining pride consists of two adult females and six sub-adults of about 16 to 18 months of age.
“This time is uncertain for them now as they are still at a vulnerable age and relied on Mopane as well as the females for protection. The females are now going to have a very tough time in protecting the pride as they are. Only time will tell as there is now a huge void which will be sought after by other males.”
Abrahamson confirmed the news on Friday afternoon, after first raising the alarm on Thursday that sources on the ground had informed her that the popular lion had been “injured and possibly killed in a bow hunt after being baited in a hunting area on the outskirts of Hwange.”
Hwange Park notorious for hunters waiting on the outskirts
Hwange Park, in northwestern Zimbabwe, made world headlines in mid-2015 when another of its well known lions, named by research scientists as Cecil, was lured out of the Park and killed by an American hunter.
Locals were concerned that hunters were now targeting Mopane who was apparently as big and impressive as #CecilTheLion. Lions of Hwange National Park asked back in May 2019 that people “keep a watch on” Mopane and his male companion Sidhule, as they were worried about the oncoming hunting season. Mopane, they said, had become more docile since teaming up with Sidhule and “fathering offspring with the Busters Sisters and the Nyamandhlovu Prides”.
A petition was also launched to try keep Mopane and Sidhule safe from hunters, who were allegedly setting up bait sites to try and lure them out of Hwange Park, where photographic concessions kept them protected.
Tragically, a few months later, Sidule was killed on World Lion Day, 10 August 2019, in Zimbabwe.
At the time Abrahamson pointed out that each time a male it taken out of a pride comes the loss of either lionesses or cubs dying in the change-over or conflict it causes.
Supporters of hunting claim that the sport’s focus is on sustainability, and that the areas in which hunting takes place are not suitable for photographic safaris, and that therefore by using them for hunting it generates revenue to maintain these wild habitats.
“But how are you protecting the wildlife if you are taking out males from prides who frequent the National Park?” Abrahamson asked. These lions traverse the park, contradicting the hunters’ philosophies.
She has called for an independent scientific study on the sustainability of the numbers taken from this region, and the impact these losses are having on the lion pride dynamics, as well as the knock-on affect to communities in these areas.
According to Abrahamson, these are healthy lions being taken out of the gene pool, and lions which are still breeding and actively part of a healthy pride.
Last night Abrahamson, posted screenshots showing “distressing” evidence online that Big Game Safaris International was “openly advertising and targeting Mopane in Dec 2020”. The promotion boasted that Mopani was one of the oldest and most aggressive lions in their hunting block, and admitted that Mopani travelled between their block and Hwange Game Reserve.
“Do you want the chance to take a big free roaming lion? Book a hunt with us!” said the advert. See images below (this appears to have now been removed from their Instagram page):
“These hunting outfitters on the outskirts of Hwange need to be taken to task on their ethics!! It is just unacceptable!!!”
The conservationists are currently compiling a document to be sent to the Zimbabwean government to stop all big-cat hunting on the Hwange border, Abrahamson told SAPeople.