8 November 2010

Namibia: Hobatere's 'Old Boy' Killed

THE death of a second collared lion within the last five months has shocked the Namibian tourism and conservation community. The killing of the black-maned lion, logged as XPL-20, but affectionately nicknamed 'Old Boy', comes five months after the collared lion Leonardo was illegally shot by professional hunter Keith Wright.

Dr Flip Stander, renowned lion researcher, states on his website (www.desertlion.info) that "in the wake of the shooting of Leonardo, this is a big blow to the lion population and to tourism in Namibia".

Stander stresses that Old Boy was "not a problem lion". Stander says his death is a tremendous loss to Namibia's lion research archives and tourism. "He was massively important, not only to conservation, but to tourism too," Stander said.

Old Boy is estimated by many to have been the most frequently seen lion in Namibia and attracted thousands of visitors to Hobatere Lodge during the past five years.

The 10-year-old lion was killed last month during a trophy hunt in the Ehirovipuka Conservancy, on the western border of the Etosha National Park.

Steve Braine, owner of the Hobatere concession and lodge, who has worked closely with Stander in collecting data on Old Boy, said last week that "the whole conservancy was 100 per cent aware that the lion was collared".

Louise Braine, co-owner of the concession and lodge, added that eventually, when he was old, they would have called in a hunter.

"But not now, in his prime," she said.

Speaking to a conservancy member, The Namibian was told that the conservancy has a strict no-shoot policy when it comes to collared animals.

However, the hunters did conduct a legal hunt insofar as they were in possession of the necessary permits, he said. He added that the concession is N$75 000 richer from the trophy hunt.

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism confirmed last week that the lion was shot legally, though questions have been raised regarding the shooting of the particularly well-known Hobatere collared lion.

"Our hands are tied because they had a permit. But we want to know why they shot that particular animal," a ministry official said yesterday on condition of anonymity.

The trophy hunt was led by South Africans Peter Thormalen and Phillip Fourie, who owns the hunting rights in the concession. Both Thormalen and Fourie refused to speak to The Namibian. Thormalen advised the newspaper to "contact my lawyer".

The local professional hunter hired by Thormalen and Fourie to act as the hunting guide, as they themselves do not have permission to shoot professionally in the country, was Jan du Plessis of Sebra Hunting Safaris located near Kamanjab.

Du Plessis claimed that the hunting party did not notice the collar until the lion was dead.

The chairperson of the conservancy, Asser Ujah, charged that the lion was lured to the hunters while they were waiting to shoot a leopard. He claimed that the hunters "put out meat for the leopard" but instead lured the collared lion.

Ujah alleged that "the lion came quickly, tried to attack them" and was shot as a result.

Du Plessis did not mention an attempted lion attack when he spoke to The Namibian, emphasising that "there was nothing illegal about the hunt. I had a permit".

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