Here Are the Facts About “Mopane” the Lion

Safari Club International (SCI) constantly fights for the rights of hunters around the world, especially as the media pushes false narratives, attacks the hunting community, and refuses to acknowledge the benefits provided by hunting. In the last week, news has come out regarding a 12-year old lion hunted in a Zimbabwe hunting concession. The Daily MailThe Sun, and others posted inaccurate and deliberately misleading information about the circumstances of the hunt attempting to stir up the same outrage as Cecil the lion. SCI is here to set the record straight.   

First, the facts. The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) released a statement regarding the hunt. While the news claimed it was a pride-heading male lion named Mopane from Hwange National Park, Zimparks has confirmed there is, in fact, no such lion in the park.  The hunting concession borders the park, as hunting areas frequently do to create a buffer zone between human communities and wildlife, and a lion’s range may cross over both. Zimparks is explicit that all hunting is for conservation purposes and that a “12-year old lion is considered too old and incapable of surviving in the jungle.” There is nothing to show the hunt was in any way illegal, and Zimparks expressed deep disappointment that misguided organizations are attempting to undermine the conservation efforts of a sovereign nation. 

Following several hit pieces, Dante from Barstool Sports shared the Sun’s article and wrote his own narrative titled “Another American Poacher Has Killed A Beloved Lion In Zimbabwe And It’s Time We Start Selling Licenses To Hunt Poachers.” As the name suggests, the article was rife with inaccuracies and blatant lies about both this specific incident and the hunting community as a whole. Dante is clearly someone who does not understand hunting and has certainly never heard of hunting benefits in Africa. Someone who conflates hunting as poaching and then wants to hunt “poachers” is most likely never going to acknowledge the benefits of hunting around the world. 

In response to Dante, Sydnie Wells from Barstool Outdoors wrote a compelling reply, “What Do You Know About Hunting in Africa?” She clearly lays out the facts and defends legal hunting in the face of Dante’s false description of poachers. The hunt in question, and hunting in Africa as a whole, has significant benefits to both African communities and wildlife and legal hunting is absolutely not poaching. An avid hunter and outdoorswoman herself, Sydnie clearly states, “no one hates poachers more than hunters.” Sydnie used SCI’s International Hunting page for her references and gave great shoutouts to SCI – thank you, Sydnie! 

Here is what The Daily Mail, The Sun, Dante, and other anti-hunters get wrong: legal, well-regulated hunting is a crucial component of species conservation, raising revenues and community involvement for the protection of species. Hunters hold deep respect for wildlife, and their efforts contribute to sustainability of habitat and wildlife around the world, in North America and Africa alike. The notions of hunters perpetuated in the media as bloodthirsty murderers are not only offensive and inaccurate, but also promote a false narrative that has negative consequences for the very species anti-hunters claim to protect. 

Fortunately, there is hope for the hunting cause in the mainstream media. When Sydnie countered Dante’s commentary with facts in a respectful, educational way, Dante responded back. In one of the best social media exchanges between two people who vehemently disagree, Dante responded, “[I] wasn’t aware of most of that and def let emotion get carried away. Still don’t agree with it but I understand it now. Good job” (see picture below). 

It’s okay to never want to go hunting, whether in the U.S. or Africa or anywhere else. Hunters respect other opinions and lifestyles, and simply ask for the same respect towards their community. Hunters are conservationists and an essential component of strategies to ensure we keep wild animals and wild places around the world. It is especially important to recognize the authority of range states to manage their wildlife, and the media has a responsibility to reflect that. Zimparks Spokesperson Tinashe Farawo states, “These are voices of people who speak without knowledge. Some do not even know these lions nor understand the dynamics of how they are kept.” SCI will continue to fight against wrongful attacks in the media, support African leadership, and be First for Hunters. 

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