Permitting authority shows Parliament photo of dead lion it claims is not famous pride male – but experts say it is
Don Pinnock
18 September 2018

The authority that licensed the lion trophy hunt which became the focus of a parliamentary inquiry last week has been at pains to assure everyone it was not the pride male named Skye. It seems to have just scored an own goal. 

It was the wrong picture and probably the wrong dead lion. The Mpumalanga authority, which licensed the Umbabat Reserve trophy hunt, showed Parliament two pictures last week. The live one, they said, was Skye, but it definitely wasn’t. The dead one, they said, was the hunted lion and not Skye, but its markings indicate that it most likely was.

A high-definition rendering of Skye – who was often photographed by tourists – and the dead lion show the same distinctive marks below the left eye and the same nose scratches.

Analysing facial scars and eye markings on the picture presented to Parliament, Jason Turner, an independent ecologist with 20 years experience in identifying lions, found the facial markings on the dead lion to be “identical with those of the pride male named Skye”.

He added: “The ideal way to identify lions is by whisker spot pattern. The MTPA (Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Authority) photo was of very poor resolution. However, the other markings are diagnostic andconfirm the lion’s identity.”

A land owner within Umbabat, Charlie Lynam, who has followed and photographed Skye over many years, confirmed this.

“The photograph of the dead lion does appear to be of Skye as it bears a number of his definitive and unique identification characteristics such as nose and eye scars,” Lynam said.

The photographer and ranger, Chad Cocking, whose image MTPA used claiming it was of Skye, said the lion pictured was part of a known coalition of two males in the eastern part of what was then Tanda Tula’s traversing concession.

“Knowing this lion and knowing the dominant male lion of the Western Pride that the media has dubbed Skye, I can tell you that they are not the same lion. I’m not sure where they obtained the image from, but it was not one that I personally submitted.”

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