Another majestic lion was killed in Zimbabwe, allegedly by an American hunter

The death of Mopane is reminiscent of Cecil’s demise

Humane Society International / Africa

Chris Upton/Alamy Stock Photo Lion in the wild.

LONDON—A majestic lion named Mopane was killed allegedly by an American hunter outside of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe last week. Mopane’s death has sparked international outcry with details surrounding his killing similar to those of Cecil the lion, slaughtered in 2015 in the same area. With his impressive mane, Mopane was well-known to local tour guides and international tourists visiting the area to catch a glimpse of him.

Just like 13-year-old Cecil who was lured with an elephant carcass as bait, it was reported that the approximately 12-year-old Mopane was possibly lured out of the Hwange National Park with bait and killed in in the same place that Cecil was killed on land adjacent to the Park. Like Cecil who headed up a lion pride, Mopane was known to have formed a coalition with another male lion named Sidhule, and the two males formed a pride with two adult females and six sub-adults of about 16 to 18 months old. Locals were concerned that Sidhule and Mopane would be targeted by trophy hunters and started a petition to protect them. Unfortunately, Sidhule fell victim to a trophy hunter and was killed two years ago this month in 2019.

Kitty Block, CEO of Humane Society International and president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said, “Mopane was a father and played a significant role in his pride. Without him, his pride is now vulnerable to takeover by another male or group of males, which may lead to the killing of the cubs and females in his pride. Yet, as with Cecil six years ago, the perverse pleasure some people derive from killing iconic animals brought this noble lion’s life to a tragic end. Another trophy hunter spending tens of thousands of dollars on a globe-trotting thrill-to-kill escapade shows humanity at its worst. It is shameful that the U.S. has the distinction of being the world’s biggest importer of hunting trophies. Enough is enough.” 

The African lion is protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. However, trophy hunters continue to be authorized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to import trophy-hunted lions and other species threatened with extinction under a permitting scheme that HSUS and HSI have challenged as violating federal law. The Humane Society Legislative Fund is currently working with the Administration and Congress to address this dangerous and broken import permit system.

Neither Cecil’s nor Mopane’s killings are anomalies. Between 2009 and 2018, 7,667 lion trophies were traded internationally, including into the U.S. and the European Union. In addition to advocating to eliminate the import of lion trophies into the U.S., HSI is working in South Africa to prohibit the export of lion trophies and in the U.K. and European Union to prohibit the import of imperiled species trophies.

Arthur Thomas, Humane Society International/UK’s public affairs manager, said: “The tragic news that another magnificent male lion in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park has been baited and killed by a trophy hunter, brings back heart-wrenching memories of the day six years ago that Cecil the lion died a similar fate at the hands of a hunter. It’s a sobering reminder, if one were needed, that we must end trophy hunting and afford our precious wild animals the protection they desperately need. This lion’s death comes as the UK government is yet to make good on its pledge to ban UK trophy imports and exports. Our plea to Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to demonstrate global leadership on this issue and bring forward a comprehensive and rigorously-enforced ban on all hunting trophies now, and help stop this barbaric practice.”

Additional information:

  • An estimated 20,000 mature lions remain in the wild in Africa.
  • Lions are infanticidal species. Infanticide occurs when adult males take over a new territory and kills the dependent cubs in order to increase mating opportunities with resident females that have dependent offspring.
  • Human-induced removal of lions, such as trophy hunting, disrupts social group and results in infanticide. More information on African lions can be found
  • While the U.S. is the largest importer of hunting trophies, the EU has surpassed the U.S. as the largest importer of lion trophies between 2016 and 2018 according to a new report by HSI/Europe.


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