90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station

Outrage Over Killing Of Magnificent Bull Elephant

Trophy hunter shoots massive male elephant, perhaps largest in 30 years, and 40 other elephants poisoned, as hunting debate rages.

By Vicki Croke

German hunter with slain elephant

This photo shows an unnamed German hunter with his guide as they pose with the magnificent elephant who has just been killed in Zimbabwe.

Well, so far this massive bull elephant doesn’t have a name, but his killing in Zimbabwe may cause just as much outrage as that of Cecil the lion. Social media is on fire this morning with condemnation.

Yesterday, a British newspaper reported that a German trophy hunter legally killed one of the biggest bull elephants in Africa in perhaps 30 years in a private hunting concession bordering the Gonarezhou National Park in southern Zimbabwe.

The Telegraph of London posted a photograph of a white hunter with a guide proudly standing next to the dead and crumpled body of a magnificent bull elephant.

It’s the latest in a number of elephant killings over the last weeks in Zimbabwe. Just before this, we learned that in more than one incident, a total of at least 40 elephants were poisoned with cyanide and dismembered by poachers.

The Telegraph story reports:

Mystery surrounded the identity of the elephant, which was estimated to have been between 40 and 60 years old, but had never been seen before in Zimbabwe’s southern Gonarezhou National Park.

But its tusks, which almost touch the ground in a photograph taken moments after its shooting, confirmed its exceptional nature, weighing a combined 120lb.

It was shot on October 8 in a private hunting concession bordering Gonarezhou by a hunter who paid $60,000 (£39,000) for a permit to land a large bull elephant and was accompanied by a local, experienced professional hunter celebrated by the hunting community for finding his clients large elephants.

The German national, who the hunt’s organisers have refused to name, had travelled to Zimbabwe to conduct a 21-day game hunt including the Big Five of elephants, leopards, lions, buffalo and rhinoceros.

Twitter and Facebook are full of outrage, with posts calling the hunter a coward and worse. According to The Evening Standard, comedian and animal activist Ricky Gervais Tweeted: “German Hunter pays 40K to kill Africa’s biggest elephant. Can I pay 40K to knock Germany’s biggest tw*t’s teeth out?”

“We should all mourn the triumph of greed over nature,” Tweeted David Shepherd of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.


Scientists have shown that older bulls play an important role in elephant society, among other things, disciplining younger males and teaching them manners.

As of this morning, the identity of the elephant is still being investigated, though there had been speculation that he was a known older bull who would have traveled up to Zimbabwe from Kruger National Park in South Africa.

But Louis Muller, chairman of the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters & Guides Association, disagreed, telling the Telegraph that the identity of the elephant is not known:

“We checked everywhere and this elephant has never been seen before, not in Zimbabwe nor Kruger. We would have known it because its tusks are huge. There have been five or six giant tuskers shot in the last year or so, and we knew all of them, but none as big as this one.”

Hunters and hunting organizations say that trophy hunting helps local people and their economy. The Telegraph says:

The man who helped arrange the hunt, who did not want to be named, defended his client. “This was a legal hunt and the client did nothing wrong,” he said. “We hunters have thick skins and we know what the greenies will say. This elephant was probably 60 years old and had spread its seed many many times over.”

He said his organisation paid as much as 70 per cent of its hunting fees back to the local community and observed quotas for animals. “This is good for Zimbabwe and good for local people,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for hunters to spend $100,000 (£64,551) each trip.”

But just this week, CBS News presented a damning report from Debora Patta questioning such claims and asking whether the money from trophy hunting reaches local communities in Zimbabwe:

Emmaual Fundira heads the Safari operators in Zimbabwe. He says Americans like Palmer [the American dentist Walter Palmer who killed Cecil the lion] make up the majority of Zimbabwe’s trophy hunters, and part of the huge hunting fees they pay is supposed to go to conservation and community projects.

Fundira told CBS News it rarely does, blaming corrupt government officials.

“How much money does the government give to the parks?” Patta asked him.

“Nothing. Zero,” Fundira said. “In most cases, you find that the bureaucratic nature of organizations, most of that money may be consumed to a large extent through administration costs and does not necessarily filter directly to conservation.”

Patta visited a rural Zimbabwe village and spoke to the residents. According to CBS News:

But the villagers we spoke to, like Edward Ngwenya, who has not had a job for decades and does not have one dollar to his name, said they haven’t received a cent from the council.

Many conservationists agree. “Hunters claim it helps conservation. But alive, an elephant is worth 1.6 million to tourism over life,” Tweeted the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust this morning. This is the renowned Kenya-based organization that—among other things—saves orphaned baby elephants.

large tusks of slain elephant bull

Michael E. Miller, writing for the Washington Post, interviewed Caroline Washaya-Moyo, a spokeswoman for Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, about the cyanide killings.

She said that favorite watering holes and salt licks for the elephants had been poisoned with blocks of industrial-grade cyanide. The Post reported:

Although 26 elephants died in the most recent bout of poisoning, poachers only made off with seven of the precious tusks, Washaya-Moyo told The Post via telephone from Hwange National Park. The bandits, likely startled by a patrol plane, left behind 14 tusks. Meanwhile, several of the dead elephants were too young to have tusks.

The surge in elephant slaughter is startling but not unprecedented. In 2013, as many as 300 elephants were killed in Hwange after poachers laced salt licks with cyanide.

Washaya-Moyo wasn’t clear why poaching had returned in such force all of a sudden.

But Zimbabwe’s environment minister blames the United States, according to Farai Mutsaka of the Associated Press:

On Monday, environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri blamed a ban on Zimbabwean elephant sport hunting by the United States for increased poaching.

“All this poaching is because of American policies, they are banning sport hunting. An elephant would cost $120,000 in sport hunting but a tourist pays only $10 to view the same elephant,” she said, adding money from sport hunting is crucial in conservation efforts.

And of the American lion hunter whose name keeps coming up in relation to this incident?

According to Robyn Kriel at CNN:

This week, Walter Palmer, the American dentist who shot Cecil the lion, had all the charges against him dropped. His paperwork, according to Zimbabwe’s National Parks, was all in order. The professional hunter who was escorting Palmer is now facing only minor charges, which will likely result in fines. Those fines, because Zimbabwe’s hunting laws are so antiquated, are still listed in Zimbabwe dollars. No one has used Zimbabwe dollars since 2009 and the Zim dollar officially does not exist anymore.

Gonarezhou means “place of many elephants,” according to the park’s website. But if illegal poaching and legal hunts in the area continue, that name may become a sad irony.


16 Responses to “Outrage Over Killing Of Magnificent Bull Elephant”

  1. Willy Roentgen

    So, lets even things and have a man-hunt, for the hunter. Let’s arm the hunters with rifles and see how the hunter likes a fair flight.

    • sharon cronan

      If only this would happen. Hunting down that hunter, killing him. Maybe it would make hunters re-think their murderous plans. Thank you for your outrage. I share it 100%.

      • R. Reddy

        The hunter stands next to this magnificent elephant with a moronic look of
        triumph, as if he has been the victor in some great battle. When actually he has shot an older animal who had no chance against his high powered weapon!
        Elephants are highly intelligent creatures who live in family groups and appear to mourn their dead.

        This individual obviously has more money than brains or heart, and sadly, in this world is there anything money can’t buy?

    • Anonymous

      Yes, it is truly tragic. I don’t get it either. At all. It seems like the assassination of a king or president. Thank you for your comments and sentiments. I share them 100%.

  2. sharon cronan

    This is beyond tragic. And it keeps happening. It has to stop. This is an anguish for the millions of humans who hear about it and become heartsick over it. What can we do? Something has to be done. Has to be done. But what. And who can/will do it. RIGHT NOW. Not in 2018, or some such. Right now. Today. This must be stopped: the hunting, the poisoning, the habitat encroachment by uncheck human population explosion. For now, justice needs to be done to this hunter. Trophy fees do not end up helping conservation. They end up enriching greedy corrupt government officials.

  3. Justin Hertotroll

    These big game hunters (cowards) usually claim that the meat is donated to the starving villagers nearby. Have you ever eaten a 60 year old elephant?

    Why don’t they just donate $60,000 – $100,000 worth of food to those villages. Can you imagine how far that would go in grains that last much longer than unrefrigerated meat?

  4. Jemimah Stambaugh

    I can’t even read any further than the first couple paragraphs. This is so incomprehensible and so wrong to so many. But how do we put a stop to it? How?! When there is no reason to the urge some have to murder a magnificent beast just for the sport of it, it must then be some thing deep inside them that is without empathy and with a need to conquer. We probably can’t change that much. What we can–I suppose–change is the financial gain of the people who run these places. But to do that, we have to figure out a better way for the people who work for these places to make a living. We (well, the places like Zimbabwe where this happens) need to make this practice illegal and put such severe punishments in place that it’s more than just a slap on the wrist. This is unconscionable. It’s nothing but murder.
    And as a supposedly civilized, we can’t say “hunt the hunters” (much as I’d like to). Rather, someone at a place like MIT has to quickly come up with a holodeck, a la Star Trek, in which these monsters can get their jollies by killing virtual animals…in which case I’d also have them virtually hunted, just to let them know what it feels like. Ach, I’m so sad.

  5. Quanda Velcours

    Thank you for caring. We need leadership. So many people love animals, and so few politicians are elected to care! Our democratic systems fail the heart of progress. This is so sad that these glorious beings, practically the equivalent of a people with long thoughtful lives, are being taken from the earth.

  6. J.Meyer

    Today as never before we all have the means to ensure this hunter will never forget his deed. Find his identity and let the social media do the rest.

    The need to shoot such a magnificent creature speaks volumes and no amount of money can fix this Sir.

  7. Jaybs

    Be sad by all means

    I visit ZAWA in Zambia and have just been in Zimbabwe not far from the killing site of CECIL. If we are serious about conservation and protection we need to fund Wildlife authorities directly.Not cash to governments but equipment to the Wild life authorities.I have visited posts where not one vehicle was in service out of 3 available, no air support, so even if you know where the poachers are the Rangers cannot combat them. This is where the big numbers are lost.

    So EURO countries instead of giving your old Landrovers cheaply to surplus disposal companies, send them to Zimbawe, Zambia etc. They will make 80 good vehicles out of 100 sent and have a fighting chance. Same goes for comms equipment, tents etc. If we do not help the countries who are on the front line we cannot be sad when species disappear.
    BTW we can and should expect the Wild life Authorities to be given the freedom to act by their own governments.

  8. David F

    “…a hunter who paid $60,000 (£39,000) for a permit to land a large bull elephant…”

    “All this poaching is because of American policies, they are banning sport hunting. An elephant would cost $120,000 in sport hunting but a tourist pays only $10 to view the same elephant,”

    Now can all of you people outraged over this one single elephant kill tell me how you have personally donated to wildlife conservation in Africa? This guy paid $60,000 just to hunt one elephant, plus additional fees to hunt the other big five game. None of you have paid close to that to conserve wildlife in Africa.

    Worse I notice that so far all of the comments are full of anger and hate directed at this one single hunter, who has done more for wildlife conservation than all of the commenters so far put together. No one seems to be interested in directing their outrage towards the poachers who killed 40 elephants. Some of you have suggested:
    Willy Roentgen October 16, 2015
    “… lets even things and have a man-hunt, for the hunter.”
    sharon cronan October 16, 2015
    “If only this would happen. Hunting down that hunter, killing him.”
    Jemimah Stambaugh October 16, 2015
    “And as a supposedly civilized, we can’t say “hunt the hunters” (much as I’d like to).”

    No desire to hunt poachers though I see. Pathetic.

  9. Susan Caloggero

    It is a horrific act and one that was committed by a male human. It is barbaric that we continue to allow this and other like tragedies ravage what we have left of this Nobel species.

  10. Vasantha Kolongahapitiya

    This is Horrific and Barbaric killing of Noble Species in the world , Giant Tusker in Zimbabwe. First Walter Palmer the Killer (From USA a Dentist ) of Mostly Friend Lion in the World Named Cecil, Now a Noble Species in the world, Giant Tusker in Zimbabwe a Killer from Germany ( no wonder he is from the No. 01 Killer of this world named ADOLPH HITLER ).
    VK- Sri Lanka

  11. arkdoppler

    “All this poaching is because of American policies, they are banning sport hunting. An elephant would cost $120,000 in sport hunting but a tourist pays only $10 to view the same elephant,”

    Well yeah, because there are millions of tourists each year that will pay to see that elephant, but you can only hunt the elephant once.

    I can understand the sentiment from people in favor of these “helpful hunting” practices, but the math just doesn’t add up. Thousands of dollars paid that the actual conservationists will never get to see. Killing elephants that are demonstrably more valuable alive than they are dead. Focusing on elderly bulls that will maybe kill 6 or 7 elephants a year when poachers slaughter these things in bulk. A lot of these hunters are partaking in this under the belief that they’re utilizing their hobby as a means towards helping conservation efforts, but the fact needs to be confronted that some habits must be abandoned if you truly want to help the environment.

  12. susan

    This isn’t sport. Killing an elephant is no challenge. It is murder for the sake of a rush and bragging rights. Botswana is the only country that has the courage and wisdom to see the long term benefits of outlawing trophy hunting, which will ultimately save the species from certain extinction.


Leave a Reply

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS