Namibia has a unique breed of lions that has adapted to the desert environment. Over the years they have become rather popular to hunt especially the males. There are three lion prides with a total of 27 adult females and sub-adults/cubs without a single adult male. There was two males both collared who has been killed in a very small amount of time leaving the females without males and with no way of filling the void.
Last year November Adolf (Xpl-3) a large male lion was killed which left Leonardo (Xpl-44) the only adult male left in the Hoanib & Hoaruseb area’s in the northern section. 26 April 2010 Leonardo was shot by hunters while he was feeding in a small cave.
The person responsible has been named Keith Wright who is a owner of a professional game hunting business Didiamla Safaris Namibia. They specialise in trophy hunting. Keith Wright has said that it was a accident and he could not see the lions collar because his mane was so big. Showing little remorse in his actions and refusing to take responsibility for the harm he has caused the government is pressing charges. When he was approached for comment on it he admitted saying:
I am the guy. …. It was a lion out of a sustainable group of lions in the area. I work very closely with Flip Stander (conservation expert from Conservancy Safaris Namibia)
He claims this all was brought about by someone who has something against him rather than of any wrong doing. He also claims he has a permit for that area and it was a perfectly legal hunt. Not so, according to the Deputy Director of Parks and Wildlife Management Colgar Sikopo confirmed that the police has opened a case of illegal hunting of a protected species. Claiming that Wright only has a permit to shoot a lioness in the Anabeb Conservancy Area while the male lion was killed in the Sestfontein Conservancy Area. Meaning that he had no right to be hunting there and even less to shoot a male. There is also the matter of the collar attached to Leonardo it was only placed on him March this year and cost of N$60 000 and that normally if a male lion is permitted to kill a percentage of that money would go to a foundation Purros Conservancy, that is the local African tribe Purros which mainly graze cattle they do hunt lions but mostly to protect their herds.
According to Flip Stander who works with the lions and track their movements, it is clear that Leonardo was also baited closer to the area where he was shot:
During the night of the 19th April 2010 (19/4 pm) Xpl-44 moved rapidly south, into the Sesfontein Conservancy, to a bait. The speed and directness of his movements suggests that he might have been called by sound playbacks. He remain at the bait until the morning of 21 April 2010. The mortality sensor inside his satellite GPS collar was activated later in the day, and it is estimated that he was shot between 07 – 09h00 (subject to error). By 14h00 the satellite collar was transmitting it’s position from a hunting camp 6 km north-east of Sesfontein.
The investigators are refusing to say more about the case, stating that it is a sensitive matter at the moment.
There has been a facebook group started Stop Keith Wright the KILLER of Leonardo the Lion to trade in Namibia. If you would like to support the dessert lions or learn more about them go to Flip Stander’s website: desertlion.info
Criminal charges has been laid against Keith Wright after a high-profile investigation by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism into the killing of Leonardo, a protected lion species.
The Deputy Director: Parks and Wildlife Management in the ministry, Colgar Sikopo, have confirmed that the Police had opened a case of illegal hunting of a protected species after Mr Wright admitted to shooting the collared lion.
The Ministry has said that Keith Wright only had a permit to shoot a lioness and only in the Anabeb Conservacy Area. He had no authorisation from them to hunt a lion in the Sesfontein Conservancy Area.