Harare - An Italian father and son who lived in Zimbabwe were shot dead by wildlife rangers while on an anti-poaching patrol in an apparent case of mistaken identity, officials said Monday.
The two were killed in the Mana Pools national park in northern Zimbabwe on Sunday.
"The rangers (were) following the spoor of the poachers, they later saw movement in the thicket, heard voices and opened fire accidentally shooting and killing, the pair," the parks authority said in a statement.
Emmanuel Fundira, head of the Safari Operators Association, told AFP that private individuals regularly assist the parks department in Zimbabwe by providing logistical support for anti-poaching patrols.
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"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."
The parks department said they were investigating the incident.