An elephant has been found dead after it was shot eight times during a trophy hunt in South Africa.
The “deeply distressing and tragic trophy hunt” took place September 3 at the Maseke Game Reserve, which is in the Balule Nature Reserve in South Africa’s Limpopo province, Humane Society International reported.
The elephant was shot multiple times over a long period and eventually died from its injuries.
The shooting violated a South Africa High Court interim interdict—a court order banning permits for trophy hunting on African elephants, black rhinos or leopards in South Africa. The court order followed a successful legal challenge brought up by Humane Society International/Africa in 2022 against the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment and others.
Around 1,200 species, including Africa’s “big five,” are hunted for trophies, according to the Humane Society.
“This incident is a serious cause for concern beyond South Africa: it calls attention to the rampant mismanagement, lack of oversight, and cruel nature in the global trophy hunting industry,” Sarah Veatch, director of wildlife policy for Humane Society International, said in a press release about the incident.
She continued: “This is a harsh reminder of Cecil the lion’s tragedy in Zimbabwe, who suffered from arrow wounds for over 10 hours before he was killed by a trophy hunter, and it happens far more often than these two instances. Permit violations and documented instances of suffering, like for this elephant and Cecil, are manifestations of the industry’s much larger, dangerous culture of wilful disregard for animals and the law.”
Cecil was a beloved African lion who gained notoriety in 2015 after he was lured outside the protected area of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park and killed by an American trophy hunter. A research group had been tracking the lion for research purposes before he was killed by an arrow. The incident sparked global outrage.
The elephant was hunted by a hunting party, which had a client, a hunting guide, a reserve representative and a backup rifleman, according to a publicly released letter issued by the Balule Nature Reserve and seen by the Humane Society.
Tony Gerrans, executive director for Humane Society International/Africa, said in a press release that the letter deemed the hunt lawful, but he noted that this was not correct.
Many animal welfare groups are strongly against trophy hunting, considering it unnecessary, especially for endangered species on the brink of extinction. An estimated 415,000 African elephants are left in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
The client initiated the first gunshot, which wounded the elephant. The hunting guide and the reserve representative then fired additional shots that further wounded the elephant. But, the animal still did not die and tried to escape as it continued to be shot. It was making its way toward the neighboring Grietjie Private Nature Reserve, an ecotourism reserve, where trophy hunting is prohibited.
The elephant was followed on foot and by a helicopter, which had been called to the scene. It was chased back to the Maseke Game Reserve, where it was shot again. After eight shots, the elephant finally died.
“This incident once again demonstrates the inhumanity of hunting sentient animals merely for bragging rights and to display parts of their bodies as trophies on a wall,” Veatch said.
“Too many endangered and threatened animals continue to suffer and die within so called ‘nature conservation reserves’ in what is best described as a blood sport, Gerrans said.
He went on: “HSI/Africa has challenged the way this horrifying activity is permitted by the government, and we call on all South African wildlife administrators to abide by the High Court order which prohibits the permitting of elephant, leopard and black rhino hunts until such time as the court can rule on the merits of the permitting process.”
Gerrans also said that the Humane Society is “horrified by this unnecessary tragedy.”
“Given the High Court’s interdict prohibiting the permitting of elephant hunts, the letter’s conclusion that this hunt was lawful is incorrect,” Gerrans said.
He continued: “Furthermore, no animal should ever experience the pain and suffering that this elephant endured. The practice of trophy hunting is not only profoundly inhumane but also poses a grave threat to our biodiversity and tarnishes South Africa’s global reputation as a sustainable and responsible tourist destination. To injure, chase and kill any animal in this way, is unacceptable.”