A Croatian hunter died in an apparent freak accident as he aimed his rifle at a lion to crown his trophy collection, according to reports.

Pero Jelinic, 75, died after he was hit by a stray bullet on a hunting trip in South Africa.

According to his friend Slavko Pernar, Jelinic was taking part in "canned" lion hunting – a legal but widely condemned practice in South Africa where hunters shoot and kill lions bred in captivity – when he was hit.

The hunter had already shot one lion on the trip and was hoping to kill another before he himself was shot.

Pernar told Croatia's Jutarnji List newspaper that Jelinic was a passionate hunter who had gone to South Africa to claim a lion trophy after shooting "everything that could be hunted in Europe".

Pernar added: "He unfortunately received the ugliest end – he died in South Africa doing what he loved. His office, a hunting hall, was full of trophies, deer and bear specimens and everything that could be hunted in Croatia and Europe."

Jelinic was airlifted to hospital but later died of his injuries.

There were conflicting reports about where the stray bullet had come from. Divo Curlica, of the Dubrovnik Croatian Hunters' Safari Association, said the bullet came from a "professional foreign hunter".

He added: "It was an unlucky case, an unfortunate circumstance."

However, a separate report from Croatian news site Dnevnik claims Jelinic was accidentally shot by one of the Croatian hunters he had been travelling with.

Police spokesperson Sabata Mokgwabone said officers did not suspect foul play.

He told MailOnline: "The injured man was airlifted to the nearby hospital by helicopter but doctors were unable to save his life.

"A case of culpable homicide [causing death by negligence] has been opened and police are also investigating charges of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.

"At this stage it is not clear who fired the fatal shot that killed Mr Jelinic. Our investigations are ongoing."