The death of a South African man who was hunting without a license at a private game farm last week has evoked little sympathy from mourners of Cecil the lion.
Matome Mahlale, 24, was part of a group of five young men illegally hunting with their dogs on a property that they shouldn’t have entered, according to a police statement obtained by The Washington Post. In the process, they encountered two lions who charged at them.
While three of the men managed to climb a tree and another escaped, Mahlale and two of the dogs were mauled to death.
The Limpopo province police are continuing to investigate the incident. The game farm did not charge the surviving hunters with trespassing, and the lions’ owners do not face any charges from Mahlale’s family.
“We have a big problem with people doing illegal hunting,” police spokesman Col. Ronel Otto told The Washington Post. “It’s difficult from the police’s side because the problem is vast. We do work together with the rural communities — if we learn that there’s a problem, we get there as soon as we can.”
But as for the prevalence of illegal hunting, Otto said, “We can’t prevent it.”
The seeming reversal of fortunes for hunters has prompted some to classify the incident as the lions’ attempt to “turn the tables.” One local interviewed by the Daily Express went so far as to declare, “There won’t be many people feeling sorry for [Mahlale]. This is seen as poetic justice for the death of Cecil.”
An international uproar was ignited this summer following the death of Cecil the lion, a beloved mainstay of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, just across the border from where Mahlale was killed. Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, was also partaking in an unlawful hunt when he lured Cecil out of the park and shot him with a compound bow and rifle.