A Croatian trophy hunter who’d hunted ‘everything that could be hunted in Europe’ has been shot dead in a freak accident while taking part in a South African hunting expedition.
Pero Jelinic, a 75-year-old hotelier from the Croatian island of Pag, had already killed one lion and was about to shoot another when he was struck and killed by a stray bullet on a remote farm this past Saturday.
Jelinic’s friend Slavko Pernar said Jelinic was a ‘passionate’ hunter who travelled to Africa to land a lion trophy after he found himself seeking a new challenge, the Daily Mail reported.
It is not yet clear who was responsible for firing the shot that killed Jelinic, police said.
Jelinic was shot while he was in the North West province of South Africa, having travelled there with two friends to hunt big cats ‘to complete his extensive trophy collection’.
According to Pernar, a close friend of Jelinic’s and a fellow hunter, Jelinic was particularly keen on claiming the head of a lion ‘to crown his rich hunting career’. For the past year he had even leased his hotel out so he could commit fully to his ambition and enjoy his retirement.
“Pero was a passionate hunter of big and small game, and in search of that he travelled most of the world,” Pernar told Croatia’s Jutarnji List newspaper.
“For the past year he had leased his hotel to dedicated himself to the things he planned to accomplish and enjoyed 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.”
Jelinic was killed at Leeubosch Lodge, a property a four-hour drive from Johannesburg and 40 miles from the border with neighbouring country Botswana.
The property is known for keeping lions in captivity for the sole purpose of their being hunted – a controversial industry known as ‘canned’ lion-hunting.
The owner of Leeubosch Lodge, Dr Gideon Engelbrecht, told News24 that he was not at the farm when Jelinic was shot dead.
‘I was at my surgery when I received the call. I arranged for a helicopter to take the man to hospital, but that’s all I am going to give you at this stage, because the case is still under investigation,’ he said.
South Africa’s ‘canned’ lion-hunting industry, which legally breeds lions in captivity to be killed by hunters, is known for being a lucrative business which is also highly controversial among animal lovers and hunters alike.
Hunts in this industry keep lions in a confined space using fences, giving them a zero chance of escape and giving the hunter the best possible chance of claiming his trophy.
In November 2015, the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA) voted to disassociate itself from canned lion hunting in the country and banned its members from taking part in such expeditions, calling them ‘vanity hunting’.
However, PHASA reversed the ruling last year, a decision which received severe criticism from animal rights groups across the globe.
Police have confirmed that they have opened a case of culpable homicide into Jelinic’s death. They are also investigating charges of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
However, they ‘do not suspect any foul play’ in the shooting and investigations into the death are ongoing.