Zimbabwe: Elephant with big ivory tusks killed in legal hunt

HARARE, ZIMBABWE: The killing of a huge elephant in Zimbabwe has been confirmed by the national parks agency, which defended the legal hunt as a source of much needed money for communities living near game parks.

Wildlife conservationists are livid about the shooting of an elephant said to be one of the biggest in Africa.

The elephant was killed by a "foreign client" in a safari hunting area bordering Gonarezhou National Park in south-east Zimbabwe, the national parks said in a statement Saturday.

The killing was legal but "unethical," said Johnny Rodrigues of the Zimbabwe Conservation Taskforce.

The controversy over the elephant comes after the killing of a well-known lion named Cecil in July sparked international outrage. At least 40 elephants were poisoned by cyanide in the country's biggest game reserve, Hwange National Park, earlier this month.

The large male elephant was killed in the Malipati Safari area, where legal hunting channels fund to poor rural communities living near game reserves, said the parks.

"Such hunts go a long way in assisting communities in the surrounding area. Communities will benefit from revenue generated from wildlife-based projects, including hunting in the area," said the parks statement.

The elephant was killed on Octoner 7 October and its ivory tusks weighed 55 kilograms (121 pounds) and 54 kilograms (119 pounds), according to the parks.

"That's a premium trophy," said Professional Hunters and Guides Association president Louis Muller. "Some big game hunters can come back to Zimbabwe every year for 30 years and spend up to a million dollars over that period with the hope of killing such an animal," said Muller.

Muller said the fact that the elephant survived long enough to grow such large tusks is evidence that Zimbabwe's conservation efforts are successfully protecting elephants.