Elephant Hunting: Big Game Hunter Pays $60,000 To Kill 50-Year-Old Bull Elephant

The killing of a massive elephant in Zimbabwe by a German hunter has sparked international outrage, but it appears that the hunt was legal.

The dead elephant is estimated to be about 50-years-old, and its massive tusks are reported to have weighed in at 120 pounds each. The identity of the animal is something of a mystery, as the Telegraph reports that local experts had never seen the elephant in the vicinity of Zimbabwe's Gonarezhou National Park.

elephant hunting zimbabwe
The elephant may have been 50 years old at the time it was shot by a German hunter. [Credit: The Telegraph]Early reports speculated that the massive elephant was a South African bull named Nkombo that had wandered in from an adjoining park. Nkombo used to have a satellite collar, but he lost it in 2014.

Nkombo was sighted in South Africa on October 3, however, and the Telegraph reports that it is unlikely that the animal could have traveled the intervening distance of several hundred miles between then and October 8, when this elephant was shot by the German hunter.

Despite confusion as to the identity of the elephant, CNN reports that the hunt was legal. Unlike the recent killing of Cecil the lion, which was shrouded in controversy, the hunter and his guide in this situation are reported to have acted within the law.

According to the Telegraph, the German hunter had all his ducks in a row before he set off on a 21-day big game hunt with plans to go after elephants, leopards, lions, buffalo, and rhinoceros. The guide company had all the appropriate permits, and the German hunter personally paid $60,000 for the permit that allowed him to shoot the massive elephant.

Since everything about the hunt appears to have been legal, the controversy centers on the sheer size and age of the elephant. According to experts, the same things that made this particular elephant an attractive trophy would have helped attract tourists to the area.

According to the Telegraph, Anthony Kaschula, operator of a photographic safari outfit in the area where the elephant was killed, thinks that particularly outstanding animals such as this one should be exempt from hunting, whether or not other hunts are allowed to take place.

"Individual elephants such as these should be accorded their true value as a National Heritage and should be off limits to hunting. In this case, we have collectively failed to ensure that legislation is not in place to help safeguard such magnificent animals."
The Chairman of the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association, Louis Muller, actually agrees.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Muller said that the German hunter and his guide had no idea how large the elephant was before it was shot, but that he has previously recommended the collaring of especially large elephants so that hunters know to avoid them.

"We have suggested before to all concerned parties that each elephant area should collar a few with biggest tusks, so that we do not shoot them," Muller told the Telegraph. "Nobody responded to our suggestion last year. We believe this might now be taken seriously."

The United States banned the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Tanzania in 2014, and the German government may prevent this hunter from keeping his trophy as well.

While Germany doesn't have an outright ban on hunters bringing elephant trophies into the country, it has blocked the import of trophies that weren't taken in accordance with German wildlife regulations, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Officials in Zimbabwe have come out against prohibitions on elephant hunting in the United States and elsewhere. While the United States has banned the import of elephant trophies due to the collapse of elephant population in Zimbabwe and Tanzania, those countries depend on the money generated by big game hunting.

The CBC reports that Zimbabwe's Environment, Water and Climate Minister, Oppah Muchinguri, even blamed the United States ban for an uptick in elephant poaching.

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

Do you think that the United States is right to ban hunters from bringing their elephant trophies into the country?

[Photo credit: Donovan van Staden/Shutterstock]