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An Italian professional hunter and his son have been shot dead in a “friendly fire” incident in Zimbabwe as they took part in an anti-poaching operation with park rangers. Claudio Chiarelli, 65, and his 28-year-old son Max, Italian citizens...

Shock in Zimbabwe over 'friendly fire' hunter deaths

An Italian professional hunter and his son have been shot dead in a “friendly fire” incident in Zimbabwe as they took part in an anti-poaching operation with park rangers. Claudio Chiarelli, 65, and his 28-year-old son Max, Italian citizens...

Shock in Zimbabwe over 'friendly fire' hunter deaths

An Italian professional hunter and his son have been shot dead in a “friendly fire” incident in Zimbabwe as they took part in an anti-poaching operation with park rangers.

Claudio Chiarelli, 65, and his 28-year-old son Max, Italian citizens and naturalised Zimbabweans, were well-known and respected in southern Africa’s hunting and tourism industry.

They were fatally wounded after they stopped to repair a fault with their car in the wildlife resort of Mana Pools in northern Zimbabwe and both died instantly.

The incident has sent shockwaves through the small community to which they belonged and raised questions about how it could have happened.

The director general of Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said the pair were fired on by rangers who had spent several days tracking suspected poachers after shots had been heard in the park.

"On the fateful late Sunday afternoon, 13 March 2016, rangers who had since been on deployment pursuing the spoor of suspected poachers and were due for uplift came across a fresh fire place in dense vegetation, which they suspected to have been used by poachers,” Edson Chidziya said in a statement.

The pair were shot in Mana Pools

Mr Chidziya said the rangers continued following the poachers’ spoor, then saw movement in bush nearby, heard voices, and opened fire on the Chiarellis, who were repairing a fault with their car and had the bonnet up.

A wildlife expert in Zimbabwe, who asked not to be named, said there had been “a terrible mistake”.

“There is a lot of anxiety about this, and everyone in wildlife and in Parks is very worried as this was friendly fire,” he said.

Mr Chiarelli originated from Padua in Italy and his son was born in Zimbabwe. His daughter, Virginia Chiarelli, is a professional handbag maker married to a Briton and living in Glasgow. She was said to be making her way to Zimbabwe on Sunday night.

Zimbabwe’s northern wildlife areas, including Mana Pools National Park on the lower Zambezi River, have been devastated by poachers, some of them from Zambia, in the last few years, with may elephants killed and the local rhino population wiped out.

The Zambezi Valley, once home to some of Africa’s richest wildlife, is now shunned by international hunters as animal numbers have decreased.

Mr Chiarelli’s name was in the headlines last in 2006 when one of his clients, Gianpaulo Tarabine, 67, co-founder of the Italian Blumarine fashion house, was trampled to death by an elephant.

Mr Chiarelli managed to shoot the first elephant which charged the group, them but the second one could not be stopped. Mr Tarabine died in the bush ten minutes after he was rammed by the jumbo.

Zimbabwe’s wildlife authority is a parastatal but not funded by the state, and depends fully on revenue from tourism, hunting, and photographic safaris to maintain its wildlife areas and sanctuaries.

About 90 percent of its income is generated by professional hunters but the industry was hit by controversy last year after American dentist Dr Walter Palmer shot dead a famous black maned lion called Cecil, one of several lions in the area wearing a satellite collar as part of an Oxford University research project.

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