Lion-Killing Physical Therapist From Missouri Lured Mopane From Hwange Park Using an Elephant Carcass (Report)

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5 min read

Update: August 20, 2021

New details have emerged about the man who reportedly killed 12-year-old lion Mopane on the outer border of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, a murder hauntingly similar to Walter Palmer’s killing of Cecil in 2015. According to new reports, the parallels are even more disturbing than originally known. After Cecil’s death, Palmer was identified as a dentist in his 50s from Minnesota—and Mopane’s killer, according to the Daily Mail, is 46-year-old Phillip Smith, a physical therapist from Missouri. In 2018, it was revealed that Cecil reportedly suffered in agony for 10 hours after Palmer shot him with an arrow before he finally died. According to The Sun and other outlets, after Smith shot Mopane with a bow and arrow, the beloved lion also suffered before his death—for 24 hours.

A hunter, apparently 46-year-old Phillip Smith (right)—a physical therapist from Missouri—smiles over the corpse of a polar bear he seemingly just killed. According to the Daily Mail, Smith also killed 12-year-old lion Mopane on the outer border of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.

The Daily Mail also reports that Smith lured Mopane from the park (where killing him would have been illegal) using an elephant carcass as bait. Palmer and his guides also reportedly lured Cecil out of the park with food, so as to shoot him on private property.

Keep scrolling to learn what PETA’s doing to help protect wildlife and how you can help lions like Cecil and Mopane.

Originally published on August 12, 2021:

The world all but stopped spinning in July 2015 when news broke that Walter Palmer, a Minnesota dentist, had gunned down a beloved lion named Cecil after reportedly paying $50,000 to partake in a hunting expedition to Zimbabwe. The killing ignited international outrage, and caring souls took to Twitter and beyond to demand that Palmer’s gutless execution of Cecil not go unchecked. Now, six years on, a new lion killer is giving cowardly Palmer a run for his money: Earlier this month, a hunter reportedly shot and killed a well-known lion named Mopane (or Mopani) during a bow hunt on the outer border of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, the same area where Palmer apparently killed Cecil.

Mopane’s pride (or family unit) has apparently been left extremely vulnerable, as only two adult female lions and six others who are roughly 16 to 18 months old remain.

Trophy hunters and others who make a living selling “canned” hunting trips (in which hunters pay to kill native and exotic species) cling to the phony assertion that they kill animals in the name of “conservation” or, patronizingly, to “support natives.” But this lion killer and the “big game” safari that was likely hired showed zero respect for wildlife—the hunter’s sadistic pleasure in slaughtering a big cat with a high-powered weapon demonstrated only a lack of empathy for Mopane and his dependent pride members, who have since been left vulnerable.

“All wild animals are beloved by their own mates and infants, but to hunters like this overblown, over-privileged little man, who lack empathy, understanding, and respect for living creatures, they are merely targets to kill, decapitate, and hang up on a wall as a trophy,” said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk in July 2015 following Cecil’s murder.

walter palmer, trophy hunting, lion, not cecil
Walter Palmer smiles over the corpse of another animal, who, like Cecil, wanted only to be left in peace.

According to local wildlife photographer Drew Abrahamson, Mopane’s killing may have been facilitated by a bow hunt put on by Chattaronga Safaris, a South African company with reported ties to Big Game Safaris International, which in December apparently openly advertised an opportunity to murder Mopane.

“The mighty mopani. He is one of the oldest and definitely most aggressive lion in our hunting block,” Big Game Safaris International reportedly wrote in a since-deleted Instagram post. “Do you want the chance to take a big free roaming lion? Book a hunt with us!”

PETA’s hardly surprised that safari companies in South Africa are still facilitating this cowards’ pastime. With a recent undercover investigation, we revealed South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s hidden connections to and investments in the trophy hunting industry. Our footage uncovered that he has been quietly developing and expanding a trophy hunting property called Diepdrift—stocking it with animals from his own wildlife-breeding operation, Phala Phala—and that he owns a 50% stake in Tsala Hunting Safaris. Our investigator recorded conversations in which Ramaphosa’s managers admitted that he shares equally in the profits from all hunts conducted through Tsala and spoke of the importance of concealing his involvement.

The footage above reveals how hunters shoot and kill elephants and other vulnerable animals in cold blood, often leaving them to die slowly and in agony, including a captive-bred lion resting under a tree. After being ambushed, shot, and wounded by a hunter, the lion roars and charges—it takes four more shots by the hunter and his guides to kill him.

Trophy Hunting South Africa
This lion was killed during a South African hunt brokered by Tsala Hunting Safaris, a hunting company in which South African President Cyril Ramaphosa owns a 50% stake.

While PETA applauds South Africa’s Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment for cracking down on captive-lion exploitation and encourages the department to do more for big cats, you can help keep vulnerable animals from being shot in cold blood and dying in agony, too. By allowing hunters to ship decapitated heads and other body parts home as “trophies,” UPS is supporting the slaughter of magnificent animals. The company proved that it can do better when it banned the transport of not only shark fins and certain live animals but also ivory—and if it can ban an animal’s tusks, surely it can do the same for the head and other body parts, too. Click below to urge it to do more:

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