Pair to face poaching charges related to death of popular lion

Updated: 2015-07-30 07:59

By Agencies in Harare, Zimbabwe(China Daily)

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Two men were due to appear in a Zimbabwean court on poaching charges on Wednesday after a wealthy US dentist killed a beloved lion at a national park, sparking waves of criticism around the world.

Cecil the lion, a popular attraction among international visitors to Hwange National Park, was lured outside the reserve's boundaries by bait and killed earlier this month.

The hunter was identified as Walter James Palmer, an experienced trophy hunter from Minnesota, who paid $50,000 for the hunt.

Professional Zimbabwean hunter Theo Bronkhorst and local landowner Honest Ndlovu will appear in court in Victoria Falls on Wednesday to face poaching charges.

"Both the professional hunter and land owner had no permit or quota to justify the offtake of the lion and therefore are liable for the illegal hunt," the Zimbabwean Parks Authority said in a statement on Tuesday.

"(They) are being charged for illegally hunting the lion."

The statement made no mention of Palmer, but added that Bronkhorst's son, Zane, was also wanted for questioning.

The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force charity said Palmer and Bronkhorst had gone out at night with a spotlight and tied a dead animal to their vehicle to lure Cecil into range.

"Palmer shot Cecil with a bow and arrow but this shot didn't kill him. They tracked him down and found him 40 hours later when they shot him with a gun," the charity alleged.

It added that the hunters unsuccessfully tried to hide the dead lion's tracking collar, which was part of a University of Oxford research program.

"Cecil was skinned and beheaded. We don't know the whereabouts of the head," the charity alleged.

Cecil, aged about 13, was said by safari operators to be an "iconic" animal who was recognized by many visitors to Hwange due to his distinctive black mane.


"A lot of people travel long distances coming to Zimbabwe to enjoy our wildlife, and obviously the absence of Cecil is a disaster," Emmanuel Fundira, president of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, told reporters in the capital, Harare.

He described the lion as "almost semi-domesticated".

Hwange attracted 50,000 visitors last year, about half of them from abroad.

Palmer is well-known in US hunting circles as an expert shot with his bow and arrow, and has traveled across the world in pursuit of leopards, buffalo, rhino, elk and other large mammals.

Palmer, who reportedly pleaded guilty in 2008 to poaching a black bear in Wisconsin, said he had "relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt".

"I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion," Palmer said.

"I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt."

Palmer's Twitter and Facebook accounts and website of his dental practice - River Bluff Dental in Minneapolis, Minnesota - were shut down on Tuesday after being flooded with blistering attacks.

A makeshift memorial began forming outside his shuttered office as people outraged by the story dropped off stuffed animals and flowers, according to images from local media.

The online outrage was intense with the hashtag #CecilTheLion trending, while an online petition demanding justice for Cecil had drawn 95,000 signatures.

AFP - Reuters

 Pair to face poaching charges related to death of popular lion

Much-loved lion Cecil (front) was killed by a US tourist on a hunt using a bow and arrow. Zimbabwe National Parks Via AFP

 Pair to face poaching charges related to death of popular lion

Outraged animal lovers left stuffed animals on the doorstep of Dr Walter Palmer's office in Minnesota on Tuesday.  Scott Takushi / AP

(China Daily 07/30/2015 page11)