“WTF…how utterly selfish & heartless of the king; does he not know we are in the 21st century? If they still want to live like Zulu’s & live in mud huts that’s fine, but don’t be killing animals just for bloody jewellery. Lion numbers in the wild are dwindling fast, the king could have had a few teeth from a lion that had died of natural causes…not taken lives from the wild. What kind of mixed message does this send out, if animals are killed just for a king’s festival but anyone local found to be poaching will be arrested?”
When the order came for two lions to be shot Tembe rangers insisted that only lions which were old, sterile or in poor condition be shot.
But Ezemvelo head office insisted that two lions be shot as soon as possible to give the chiefs time to have their necklaces made before the annual Zulu reed dance.
The necklaces made of lion claws are a traditional status symbol.
Shortly before the deadline for the lions to be shot, a male lion escaped from Tembe and was shot after killing several cattle.
No attempts were made to capture or chase the lion back into the lion park. Its carcass was transported to the royal household.
Because the animal allegedly posed a threat to humans, the nature conservation body did not legally need a destruction permit.
‘‘Any animal that escapes from the reserve and causes damage outside the reserve is usually killed,” KZN Wildlife spokesman Musa Mntambo told The Citizen last month.
“The lion was wounded outside the reserve and then shot dead – to stop its suffering – when it re-entered the reserve,” he said.
Mntambo denied that any lion had been donated to the Zulu king.
Shortly thereafter, another lion died in a freak accident as rangers were attempting to capture it after it was sold to a private game reserve.
Its carcass was driven to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife head office from Tembe and handed over to a senior manager.
The manager then accompanied the carcass to the home of a senior chief, where the animal was handed over.
Multiple attempts to contact royal spokesman Mbonisi Zulu for comment were u unsuccessful
The hippo was shot in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve capture pens, where it was held for eight weeks while the wildlife body ‘‘fattened up the animal’’.
Ezemvelo reportedly said that the decision had been taken to destroy the hippo as it was a “problem animal” and had attacked a St Lucia home-owner, but did not explain why the animal was then fattened up for eight weeks before being shot.
After the report Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife CEO Bandile Mkhize, who allegedly ordered the possibly illegal killing of the two lions, lashed out at his critics, accusing them of being nostalgic for the days of apartheid.
Mkhize was quoted as saying: “From time to time we donate animals to the king.
“We have a special relationship and negotiate with him on what is possible or not, but I would hate to see him portrayed as someone who bulldozes us.”
The shooting of the lion, elephant and hippo come at a time when Ezemvelo KZN Wild faces funding shortages. Depending on their sex and size, elephants can fetch hundreds of thousands of rands at auctions. Hippos can fetch up to R20 000 each.