A trophy hunter looking to kill a lion to “complete his extensive collection” of big game animals was shot dead in South Africa.
Croation Pero Jelinic, 75, was struck by a stray bullet from a fellow hunter’s rifle after he had killed one lion and was preparing his shot to kill a second.
The hunter and his friends were at Leeubosch Lodge in South Africa near Setlagole, a facility that offers “canned hunting”. Canned hunting is a controversial industry in which lions are raised in captivity and released into a fenced area. Hunters pay to track and kill them as trophies. The “sport” is often likened to shooting fish in a barrel.
Jelinic’s friends told the Croatian paper Jutarnji List that Jelinic “was a passionate hunter of big and small game, and in search of that he travelled most of the world.”
After being shot, Jelinic was airlifted to hospital but died shortly afterwards. Police have opened a culpable homicide case but his friends insist it was an “accident” not “murder” the BBC reported.
Police are also investigating whether the hunters had illegal guns and ammunition while hunting the lions. There are now thought to be more lions held in captivity in South Africa than live wild (which number around 20,000).
Animal rights activists have been pushing South Africa to ban canned lion hunting, which has become big draw for wealthy trophy hunters wanting to kill the endangered species.
However, some breeders argue that “canned lion” hunting is preferable to trophy hunting of wild lions, which they say further endangers the wild populations. However, an outright ban on licensing trophy hunting from government wildlife reserves could also see a dramatic increase in illegal poaching, further threatening wild lion populations.
And animal welfare groups and conservationists point out that the rise of lion farms and canned hunting has not protected wild lions. In fact, the industry puts a clear “price-tag” on the head of every wild lion according to Fiona Miles, director of Lionsrock, a big cat sanctuary in South Africa. She says it creates a financial incentive for locals to collude with poachers. The numbers back this up with wild populations of lions having declined by 80% in 20 years.
South Africa is the world’s biggest exporter of animal heads – trophies for which hunters pay thousands of dollars to hunt. You can read more about lions in Africa and the conservation efforts at the Born Free Foundation.