Two men were due to appear in a Zimbabwean court on poaching charges Wednesday after a wealthy American 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 Tuesday.
Cecil, aged about 13, was said by safari operators to be an “iconic” animal who was recognised by many visitors to Hwange due to his distinctive black mane. 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 travelled 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 practise responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion,” Palmer said in a statement.
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.