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Record-size elephant felled as Zimbabwe hunts continue

Wildlife groups report that a German tourist has killed one of the biggest elephants seen in Zimbabwe for years. The killing comes just months after the shooting of renowned lion Cecil by an American dentist.

A German killed one of the largest elephants seen in Zimbabwe in decades, wildlife groups report. The tourist paid an estimated 53,000 euros ($60,000) for the privilege of killing the elephant, whose tusks alone weighed 54 kilograms (119 pounds).

"This elephant, which was more than 50 years old, was shot and killed outside Gonarezhou National Park last Thursday," said Emmanuel Fundira, chairman of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe (SOAZ). "We have never seen any animal that big," he added.

A spokeswoman for Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said agency officials had not heard about the hunt, but said the German would have only needed to secure the proper permits to kill the animal. However, Fundira said that even representatives of the hunt-friendly SOAZ believed that Zimbabwe should have treated the elephant as a "national treasure" rather than allowing the man to kill it.

'We are disgusted'

In July, American dentist Walter Palmer caused outrage after luring a 13-year-old lion named Cecil out of Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park aided by local guides, before shooting him with a bow, tracking and then finally killing him. The act of luring the lion out of the park by strapping meat to a car so he would follow is what made that killing technically illegal.

A well-known attraction for visitors to the Hwange National Park, the lion wore a tracking collar as part of an Oxford University research project. Earlier this week, Zimbabwean officials abandoned their bid to press charges against Palmer, saying his papers "were in order" and that he did not know that it was wrong to kill Cecil.

"Right now, there is no evidence that the same thing happened to the elephant," Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force chairman Johnny Rodrigues said, meaning that the pachyderm appeared to have been killed in a legal hunting area. Still, he said, being within the boundaries of the law did now make the killing right: "We are disgusted. It's wrong to kill an iconic animal like that."

The parks department vowed to increase patrols after ivory poachers killed 40 elephants in separate incidents with poison over the past month. However, such patrols would not have prevented the German from killing the elephant last week.

"The last time one was seen [of such size] was more than 40 years ago," Rodrigues said. "The hunter should not have shot it."

mkg/msh (EFE, AFP)

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