A trophy hunter was shot dead by a stray bullet as he aimed his rifle at a lion bred in captivity in South Africa.
Pero Jelenic, a 75-year-old hotelier from Croatia, had already killed another lion along with two other hunters before he was struck by a stray bullet as he tracked one of lions at Leeubosch Lodge near Setlagole, in the North West province, according to a report by The Independent.
According to police spokesperson Charlize van der Linden, the hunting party had already killed a lion, and were tracking a second cat, when Jelinic was struck by a bullet. The incident took place on Saturday, January 27.
“He was airlifted to Vryburg Hospital by helicopter, but doctors were unable to save the man's life,” said Linden, as reported by News24.
Cops are investigating who shot Jelinic, but have stressed they 'do not suspect foul play’. “A case of culpable homicide has been opened, and police are also investigating charges of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition. At this stage it is not clear who fired the fatal shot that killed Mr Jelinic. Our investigations are ongoing,” Linden added.
However, Total Croatia News reported that Jelinic was killed by "unknown assailants."
Jelenic’s friend Slavko Pernar said Jelinic had set his sights on a lion trophy after hunting "everything that could be hunted in Europe”. He told Croatian newspaper Jutarnji List that Jelinic "was a passionate hunter of big and small game, and in search of that he traveled most of the world.”
“For the past year, he had leased his hotel to dedicate himself to the things he planned to accomplish and enjoy a deserved retirement. He, unfortunately, received the ugliest end — he died in South Africa doing what he loved. His office, a hunting hall, was full of trophies, deer and bear specimens and everything that could be hunted in Croatia and Europe," Pernar added.
The ill-fated hunt was based at Leeubosch Lodge, a four-hour drive from Johannesburg and just 40 miles from the border with Botswana. The owner of the lodge, Dr. Gideon Engelbrecht, told News24 that he was not at the farm when the incident occurred.
"I was at my surgery when I received the call. I arranged for a helicopter to take the man to a hospital, but that's all I am going to give you at this stage because the case is still under investigation," he said.
In South Africa it is legal to hunt captive-bred lions and there is a highly controversial industry built around it. Commonly known as 'canned' lion-hunting, the issue recently came under fire from a host of reputable international and African hunting organizations — including the American hunting institution and Dallas Safari Club, which earlier this month issued a scathing statement denouncing captive-bred lion hunts.
According to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the number of African lions in the wild has dropped by 40 percent in the last 30 years because of habitat loss and conflict with people.
Twitter showed little sympathy for the trophy hunter with many of them calling it an epic display of karma.