Trophy hunter exposed after paying £30k to kill beloved lion with 24 arrows

The trophy hunter suspected to have killed Zimbabwean lion and tourist favourite Mopane allegedly paid $30,000 for the privilege.

American physiotherapist Phillip Smith was identified by animal rights activists as global fury over majestic Mopane's killing became louder, The Times reported.

The Missouri man was accompanied by professional hunter and guide Dennis Nyakane of South Africa hunting operator Chattaronga Safaris, according to unconfirmed reports.

It comes six years after beloved lion Cecil was hunted down by American dentist Walter Palmer just yards from where Mopane was killed.

The black-maned beast led two prides, but was lured from his resting spot and out of Zimbabwe's protected Hwange National Park by the hunting group.

Big-game hunting remains legal in Zimbabwe outside designated areas.

The average 15-day hunting venture costs in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Former professional hunter and SAS operative Hannes Wessels confirmed Mopane had been killed – but said it wasn't clear who did it.

He said: “I was there in that area at the time, and there’s no doubt Mopane has gone.

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"Nobody wants to talk about it, nor be named but it happened.”

“Whatever you think about hunting — and it may be unpalatable to outsiders — it keeps poachers away.

"Wherever hunting is not allowed, poaching soars.

"It is more complicated than at first sight.”

Global media has been unable to confirm Smith's identity as the hunter who killed Mopane.

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Nor has he stepped forward to deny the allegation, even as furious activists shared his address online.

The Daily Star has attempted to contact Smith for comment.

Of the 62 lions in Hwange National Park tagged over 5 years by Oxford University researchers during the early-2000s, 24 have since been shot dead by trophy hunters.

The Sun reported Mopane needed 24 arrows from Smith's bow to finally die.

Kitty Block, president and CEO of the US Humane Society, told the New York Post that Mopane's death was the latest example of a "perverse pleasure".

She said: "Another trophy hunter spending tens of thousands of dollars on a globe-trotting, thrill-to-kill escapade shows humanity at its worst.

"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."

Dentist Palmer said he regretted killing Cecil in 2015, but insisted his actions were legal.

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