HUNCHED and dressed head to toe in camouflage gear, a team of amateur hunters track a majestic lion across the South African grasslands.

All the while, they’re being fed outrageous lies that killing the apex predator means they will be protecting local villages.

Lion-lover Rogue spent six years photographing the trophy hunters

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Lion-lover Rogue spent six years photographing the trophy huntersCredit: Strike Media
She photographed trophy hunters posing with their kills

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She photographed trophy hunters posing with their killsCredit: Strike Media

Camerawoman Rogue Rubin, who is documenting their every move, bites her tongue as the high rollers close in on their latest kill.

The undercover conservation activist has spent six years embedding herself with the big game hunters for her documentary Lion Spy, posing as budding photographer Joni Kiser.

Each of the pay-for-kill hunters wants each moment of their video game-style hunt documented. At the end, they want to pose with the carcass of the big cat they have killed.

Rogue tells The Sun: “Some of it was just ridiculous. The suppliers made out that their clients were the big powerful hero coming in to save the locals.

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“They were getting the paid-for hunters to commando crawl along the ground, despite the fact that I was standing and walking upright to film them.

“They stressed a sense of urgency to kill the big game. The foreign hunters honestly seem to believe that they have come over to save a village from a predatory big cat.

“If there was actually a problem cat, Bob from Minnesota with his daughter wouldn’t be the first port of call.

“There are plenty of people in South Africa with the training to deal with that kind of thing.”

Rogue posed as a hunt photographer to embed herself in the world of big game hunters and expose its true brutality.

Once one hired her, others began queuing up to bring her along on their cruel trips.

Clients from all over the world flew to South Africa and paid tens of thousands of pounds to have their shot at one of the ‘big five’ animals: lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, elephants, and the African buffalo.

Some turned up with no hunting experience; others brought their kids with them to experience the chase.

Heavily-armed hunters

People pay thousands of pounds to hunt down the 'big five' in South Africa

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People pay thousands of pounds to hunt down the ‘big five’ in South AfricaCredit: Strike Media
The providers for the hunt clean the the blood off the animal and reposition it for photos

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The providers for the hunt clean the the blood off the animal and reposition it for photosCredit: Strike Media

According to Big Cat charity Panthera, there are just 20,000 wild lions left in the world. The rest of the population resides in captivity.

Trophy hunters are believed to be responsible for killing 1,000 lions each year, according to Rainforest Rescue.

Several high-profile celebrities have come out and condemned trophy hunting, including Ricky Gervais, and there was an outcry in Britain when Love Island contestant Ollie Williams was pictured posing with dead animals.

Summoning up the courage to live amongst hunters was one of the hardest things for Rogue, from Cape Town.

She said: “I was filled with pure fear when I started this.

They go to the extreme to make it look as not-dead as possible – including cleaning off the blood. Some of them would replace the animal’s eyes

Rogue

“I was getting into cars with strange men who were heavily armed with guns. I didn’t know what I was getting into.

“All the time I was looking for ways to escape if I needed to. Did I know where we were going? Could I fit out the car window? Would I be able to run fast enough? Those were the kind of questions running through my mind.

“But as time went by I became more and more comfortable with the hunters because I got used to them.”

Many trophy hunting clients argue that their money helps fund conservation, despite there being no clear pathway for that to happen.

Rogue built up a fake profile as a photographer for hunting trips

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Rogue built up a fake profile as a photographer for hunting tripsCredit: Strike Media

While Rogue is strongly against trophy hunting, she did find common ground with the killers when it came to things like family values.

But what shocked her the most was how all of the visiting hunters wanted to pose with their kill like it was still alive, and more importantly – they wanted to take the carcass home with them.

Bragging rights

Rogue said: “If they can’t take the body back to show off, they simply aren’t interested in doing the hunt.

“It’s all about bragging rights. They want the photos from the trip to show the animal looking as lifelike as possible.

“They go to the extreme to make it look as not-dead as possible, including cleaning off the blood. Some of them would even replace the animal’s eyes. They wanted the picture to make them look like the heroes towering over the beast.

“It just doesn’t make sense to me. If they’re proud of killing them, why are they so desperate for the animal to appear alive in the photos?”

I was filled with pure fear when I started. I was getting into cars with strange men who were heavily armed with guns. I didn’t know what I was getting into

Rogue

Currently, Britain allows trophy hunters to import their slain animals into the country, despite a vow from the Government to stop this back in 2019.

After six years deep undercover, Rogue finally decided to confront one of the hunt leaders, called Peter.

In the documentary, she sits down with him and saying: “Lets cut to the chase here. It is scientifically proven that we have 20,000 lions left in the wild. Conservation is not affected by you killing a lion.

“The trophies are not helping. What’s helping and what’s bringing millions of dollars in is tourism to see the lions alive.”

Confronting the hunters

A visibly confused Peter confirms that they hunt and kill six to ten lions a year with their clients.

Rogue continues: “You are being responsible for the demise of an animal.”

Peter decides they’re done and walks away.

Speaking about the confrontation, Rogue said: “What you don’t see in the film is my hysterical crying the night before the meet.

“I was absolutely terrified and couldn’t sleep at all. I’d been trying to work up the courage to confront him for a while.

“I was shaking from nerves as I walked up to him and kudos to him, he stayed very calm when I did confront him. Once he knew, the rest of that world found out very quickly.

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“I’d love to go back to South Africa one day, but now I don’t know if I’d be safe there thanks to the film.”

Lion Spy will be available to own and rent on iTunesApple TV, Amazon, Sky Store, Google Play and other platforms from August 1, via The Movie Partnership.




This story originally Appeared on thesun