Professional hunter tracking a lion for American client crushed to death by young bull elephant in Zambezi Valley
A young bull elephant killed professional hunter Ian Gibson early on Wednesday as he tracked a lion for an American client in a rugged part of north-east Zimbabwe.
Mr Gibson, 55, one of Zimbabwe’s best known big game hunters, died scouting for prey in the Zambezi Valley after a young bull elephant charged, then knelt on him and crushed him to death.
“We don’t yet know the full details of how ‘Gibbo’ as we called him, died, as the American client and the trackers are still too traumatised to give us full details,” said Paul Smith, managing director of Chifuti Safaris’ which employed Mr Gibson for the hunt.
The American hunter was on his first trip to Zimbabwe, and only has one leg, but was “fit and strong” and had already shot a leopard. Mr Gibson was scouting for lions when he encountered the elephant.
Mr Gibson’s trackers said the young bull had been in a musth period, which means it was producing much more testosterone then usual.
“We know ‘Gibbo’ shot it once, from about 10 yards away, with a 458 [rifle]. He would never have fired unless he had no alternative. He was a hunter, yes, but he was also a magnificent wildlife photographer and conservationist.
“He was so experienced and this is a most unexpected tragedy.”
Mr Gibson was accompanying his client in an area known as Chiwore North in the southern part of the Zambezi Valley, which Mr Smith said is overpopulated with elephants.
The hunter and his American client were in the Zambezi Valley in Zimbabwe
Mr Smith said the young bull elephant appeared not to be a natural target for any hunter as its tusks were too small.
“In most years someone is usually killed on a hunt somewhere in Africa, and that is why it is called ‘dangerous game hunting’ but we are very shocked that it was ‘Gibbo’,” said Mr Smith.
Mr Gibson began his wildlife career in Zimbabwe’s department of national parks, but left to become a hunter about 25 years ago.
He was well-known in the US, where the Dallas Safari Club is paying his funeral expenses.
Mr Gibson lived in Marondera, a small town about 45 miles south east of Harare. A son who works in Tanzania and two grown daughters in Harare survive him.
Mr Smith said poachers from neighbouring Mozambique and Zambia were “very busy” at present, and professional hunters were the first line of defence for wildlife along the borders.
Zimbabwe’s National Parks operations were “seriously constrained” by lack of cash to finance enough patrols to limit or reduce poaching, he said.