ZIMBABWEAN wildlife rangers pursuing poachers accidentally killed two Italian environmentalists, the country’s parks agency said.
The rangers, on the trail of poachers, opened fire when they saw movement in thick bushes and heard voices, killing the two Italians who were members of the Zambezi Society, an environmental group working together with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority on Wildlife Conservation.
The Italians had stopped to attend to a mechanical problem with their vehicle, the parks authority said in an e-mail to news agency Bloomberg Monday.
The Italians were identified as a father and his son who both lived in Zimbabwe.
Emmanuel Fundira, head of the Safari Operators Association, told news agency AFP that private individuals regularly assist the parks department in Zimbabwe by providing logistical support for anti-poaching patrols.
“Claudio Chiarelli was an accomplished professional hunter who brought European tourists to Zimbabwe,” Fundira said.
“Claudio and some colleagues were on a trip with a parks anti-poaching unit when a ranger came from nowhere and shot at them while they were standing outside their vehicle.
“We understand it was a case of mistaken identity.”
An Italian embassy official, who declined to be named, said Claudio Chiarelli, reportedly from Padua, had lived in Zimbabwe since 1982 and that his son was born in the country.
Italian media reports said Chiarelli was 50, and identified his son as 20-year-old Massimiliano.
“We can confirm it happened yesterday at Mana Pools national park but we are not aware of the exact details,” said the embassy official.
“We are in contact with the family. It’s a tragedy. The loss of a father and a son, and also for Zimbabwe for the bad publicity it will generate.”
Additional report by AFP