AN Italian father and son have been shot dead during an anti-poaching patrol in Zimbabwe, officials say, in an apparent case of mistaken identity.
Claudio and Massimiliano Chiarelli were killed on Sunday by wildlife rangers in Mana Pools National Park.
They belonged to a volunteer anti-poaching unit and were shot while repairing a fault on their vehicle.
The elder Mr Chiarelli worked as a professional hunter, running safaris for European tourists.
Born in the Italian city of Padua, Claudio Chiarelli lived in Zimbabwe for more than 30 years, where his son was born.
The President of the Zimbabwe Safari Operators Association, Emmanuel Fundiram, told the BBC his death was a “huge loss not only to the family but the hunting fraternity in Zimbabwe”.
The two men had been deployed to relieve conservation officials despatched to follow the trail of suspected poachers.
“The rangers… saw movement in the thicket, heard voices and opened fire, accidentally shooting and killing on the spot the pair,” the park’s authority said in a statement.
The incident is under investigation. Mana Pools has long been a target of poachers who kill elephants for their ivory.