Trophy hunter who killed lion Mopane tracked down but refuses to apologise

A bloodthirsty physiotherapist who allegedly paid £30,000 to travel to Zimbabwe where he killed a majestic lion for his own trophy hunting pleasure has refused to apologise.

In August Phillip Smith, from Missouri, USA, lured the lion, Mopane, from a national park and killed him with a bow and arrow in a neighbouring farm, close to where Cecil the lion was killed in similar circumstances in 2015.

Reports suggested that the 46-year-old's arrow shot was poor, and the lion had to suffer hours of agony before he was put out of his misery the next day by a bullet.

Now, Smith has been tracked down by The Mirror. Locals in Columbia, Missouri, said he has been lying low since the August trip.

When first approached, Smith joyfully said he was “doing good”.

But his demeanour quickly changed when asked about Mopane. Asked whether the lion died a slow death as reported, after his poor shot with a bow and arrow, the physio said: “I don’t want to talk about it. How did you find me?”

Smith then climbed into a £56,000 4×4 GMC truck with business partner Mark Dempsey and another colleague, and sped off.

Smith and Dempsey run PEAK Sport and Spine, Missouri’s largest privately owned outpatient physical therapy company.

Eduardo Gonçalves, founder of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting and author of several books on the industry, said: “The killing of Mopane is even worse than the shooting of Cecil that shocked the world in 2015.

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“Cecil was lured with bait out of the safety of the national park, shot with a bow, and left overnight to drown in his blood. Mopane was lured out of the very same park, killed in the very same location, by the very same hunting company.

"But whereas Cecil’s killer Walter Palmer left him to wallow in agony for 11 hours, reports state Mopane was left by his killer to suffer in appalling agony for… 24 hours.

“Trophy hunting is a vile, barbaric hangover of colonialism.”

Mopane was slain on August 5.

Smith and a guide are said to have used an elephant carcass to lure Mopane out of the Hwange National Park – where hunting is illegal – into Antoinette farm. Locals claim the cat had to be finished off the next day by a bullet, after suffering hours of agony.

Mopane was tracked down with the help of Dinguzulu Safaris, the group used by millionaire Palmer in 2015.

Days earlier, Mopane’s killer and another tourist had reportedly shot a leopard.

Conservation experts fear that with Mopane gone, his pride will be defenceless to other adult males who, in order to make the females want to mate with them, will kill the cubs.

The Worldwide Fund for Nature classifies lions as “vulnerable”, with only around 20,000 adults left in the wild in Africa. Between 2009 and 2018, 7,667 lion trophies were traded internationally, including into the US and the European Union.

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