WITHIN hours of being lured out of a national park, Mopane the lion was struck by an arrow – but it would be another 24 hours of agony before he died.
This week, his killer – Phillip Smith, 46 – was tracked down to Columbia, Missouri, and squirmed when asked if he regretted his actions.
The trophy hunter, who is also a physiotherapist, reportedly paid £50,000 to shoot the 12-year-old lion with a bow and arrow in Zimbabwe in 2015.
When questioned about the killing and whether his poor marksmanship prolonged the animal’s pain, Smith closed the conversation down.
“I don’t want to talk about it. How did you find me?” he told The Mirror.
Smith is one of many who have paid thousands to kill animals – including endangered species – for entertainment.
Here, we reveal the worst offenders.
‘Shot 13,000 doves & blasted a baboon’
Trophy hunter name: Rob Weir
Number of animals killed: More than 13,010
Locations: Argentina, South Africa and more
Rob Weir boasted about having “shot 13,000 doves over four days” while on a £2,800 trip to Argentina with other hunters.
But he said he had “nothing further to say” after being called out for killing countless animals during hunting trips.
The businessman said he had to limit himself to 1,500 shells a day and would “love to go back”, before adding: “What an experience.”
His brutal claims were recorded by Eduardo Goncalves, who founded the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting (CBTH).
Weir also admitted to visiting South Africa a number of times during the last seven to eight years where he killed other animals too.
Weir said: “The very first time I went out there I wanted to shoot a baboon. I had a thing about shooting a baboon, I don’t know why but I did.
“I’ve shot buffalo out there, I’ve shot impala out there, I’ve shot warthogs out there, I’ve shot different gazelle-type animals out there.”
‘Killed 32 elephants in 15 minutes’
Trophy hunter name: Ron Thomson
Number of animals killed: At least 5,000
Locations: Zimbabwe and more
Ron Thomson, from Zimbabwe, was solely responsible for the deaths of 5,000 elephants, according to CBTH.
He started hunting animals as a teenager, worked as a park ranger where he shot more of them and then went into trophy hunting.
Thomson bragged that he has “by far hunted more than any other man alive”.
“It was a great thrill to me to be very honest,” he told the Guardian in 2018.
“Some people enjoy hunting just as much as other people abhor it, I happened to enjoy it.”
Thomson claimed the most elephants he killed on his own was 32 in 15 minutes.
‘54 rabbits in one morning’
Trophy hunter name: Tony Sanchez-Arino
Number of animals killed: At least 4,152
Locations: Spain and Africa
Tony Sanchez-Arino, from Spain, started hunting animals at the age of 13 and forged a gruesome legacy since then that he was not shy to boast about
“I broke my own record at 17 with 54 rabbits in one morning”, he wrote in his 2002 book Elephants, Ivory & Hunters.
He was named as one of “the world’s biggest trophy hunters” by CBTH who compiled a report based on the awards each killer had been given.
They claimed his record was at least 2,093 buffaloes, 1,317 elephants, 340 lions, 167 leopards and 127 black rhinos.
In what appeared to be a rare sign of remorse, Sanchez Arino urged hunters to stop killing elephants.
He said in his book, they would go into “extinction in the wild within our lifetime, to the shame of humanity” if something didn’t change.
Brit branded ‘elite’ killer
Trophy hunter name: Malcolm King
Number of animals killed: Over 500
Locations: Africa, America and more
Wealthy businessman Malcolm King was listed among the most prolific trophy hunters in the world after ‘winning’ several accolades for killing.
In 2019, he was listed as a member of the Safari Club International and received the Grand Slam Cats of the World award.
It required four animals to have been killed from a list that included lions, leopards, cheetahs, wildcats, cougars and lynx.
King was also named as having completed the Grand Slam African 29, which required three of the Big Five to have been killed and 26 other creatures.
Goncalves, from CBTH, claimed “very few had amassed so many of the industry’s obscene awards” and branded him “among the world’s ‘elite’ big game hunters”.
“If you add the minimum number of kills needed for all his awards, it comes to well over 500,” he told the Mirror.
King rejected the title of “trophy hunter” and insisted he was a “huntsman”, claiming “there is nothing wrong if done ethically and legally”.
Cecil the lion slayer
Trophy hunter name: Walter Palmer
Number of animals killed: At least six, including Cecil the lion
Locations: America, Zimbabwe, Mongolia and more
In 2015, Walter Palmer incited global outrage after he was revealed to have killed 13-year-old Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe.
The dentist, from Minnesota, reportedly paid guides £32,000 to help lure the big cat out of Hwange national park so that he could be shot with a bow and arrow.
After wounding the 13-year-old lion, the animal suffered for between 10 and 12 hours before he was put out of his misery.
The killing sparked furious backlash, including protests outside of Palmer’s dental surgery and calls for him to face prosecution in Zimbabwe.
Government officials did not charge the American because he had a legal hunting permit but he is now only allowed to return to the nation as a tourist, not as a hunter.
Palmer wrote an apology to patients at his practice stating that he “had no idea” the lion was a “local favourite, collared and part of a [Oxford] study until the end of the hunt”.
“I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion. That was never my intention,” read the letter, which was obtained by Fox News.
Later that year, other photos emerged including one that showed Palmer proudly sitting behind a dead black bear he illegally shot during a 2006 hunt in Wisconsin.
He was forced to pay nearly £3,000 and sentenced to one year’s probation after he was discovered to have killed the animal 40 miles outside of the authorised zone.
Palmer came into the spotlight again last year when he allegedly paid £80,000 to hunt Altai argali – the world’s biggest type of sheep – in Mongolia.
“The argali ram is a species in danger of extinction, so the idea that these animals can be killed for pleasure is abhorrent,” Humane Society International told the Mirror.
An insider told the publication that Palmer “took a back seat” after Cecil’s death but hunting was “a way of life to him”.
They claimed the ram was “on his lists of hunts he wanted to complete” and he had “undertaken several hunts since Cecil’s death”.
When approached by a journalist with a picture from the hunting trip, Palmer refused to talk and drove away from his dental practice.
Displays lion trophies at home
Trophy hunter name: Steve Chancellor
Number of animals killed: At least 482
Locations: Argentina and more
Another Safari Club International member, Steve Chancellor was listed as having 482 confirmed kills between 1980 and 2008.
Among his list of trophies were 13 leopards, 11 blue wildebeests and 10 giant antelopes – as well as five pumas he shot with a handgun during a three year period.
Chancellor, who is a wealthy businessman and Republican donor, was also reported to have shot 50 lions, which he displayed at his home in Indiana.
In 2018, Craig Packer, an ecologist who met the trophy hunter, told the Guardian: “He dresses up in black, he’s into that cowboy thing.”
He claimed some hunters modelled themselves on the Marlboro Man – a fictional cowboy who fronted the cigarette brand’s adverts for 55 years until 1999.
Mopane slayer’s other ‘kills’
Trophy hunter name: Phillip Smith
Number of animals killed: At least four including Mopane the lion
Locations: Zimbabwe, North America, Canada and more
Prior to shooting the 12-year-old lion, Smith was also reported to have shot a leopard during his trip to Zimbabwe.
They were likely not the only victims of the killing, as conservationists warned Mopane’s children would die too.
They claimed the cubs would be attacked by other males who were trying to infiltrate the pride and mate with the females.
The Mirror also reported that Smith had boasted about hunting other animals online and how he trained his 11-year-old son to kill a bull elk.
In 2019, he wrote: “Working my way through a goal of hunting all of the North American big game animals.”
Smith was also claimed to have killed a polar bear in northern Canada.
British trophy hunting boss
Trophy hunter name: Carl Knight
Number of animals killed: Unknown
Location: South Africa and more
Carl Knight runs a business in South Africa that allows people to shoot lions, leopards and elephants for a hefty price.
The dad, who’s originally from Epsom, Surrey, even tried to lure people on the hunting trips in February during the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
He claimed the animals – many of which are endangered – were “plentiful” and “well-rested” due to the pandemic and claimed his prices wouldn’t be beaten.
As part of the gruesome list, Knight also offered to allow people to take home an elephant trophy for £10,000 plus hunting fees or £20,000 for a lion trophy.
When approached for a response by The Sun, he simply responded: “No comment.”
But previously, he defended his actions in a statement to the Sunday People by saying: “You may not like hunting but that does not make hunters criminals.
“Our hunts are legal and whether you like it or not it’s of no relevance to me.”
Furious wildlife campaigners called for his British citizenship to be revoked but no further action appeared to have been taken.