An American dentist, Walter James Palmer, has been accused of hunting and killing well-known Zimbabwe resident – Cecil the lion.
Palmer allegedly paid a reported $68,000 to two hunters – Theo Bronkhorst and Honest Ndlovu, a private game park owner, for their assistance in poaching Cecil.
Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force charity stated that Cecil had been lured out of the Hwange National Park using bait, where he was shot with a crossbow.
The shot unfortunately did not kill Cecil instantly, instead, the maimed animal attempted to evade the poachers. An alleged 40 hours later, the team found Cecil again and this time, delivered the fatal blow.
The lion, who was fitted with a tracking collar as part of the University of Cambridge research program, was then “skinned and beheaded” according to the charity.
As soon as the news of Cecil’s death broke, Palmer’s social media accounts were flooded with condemnation and threatening sentiments. His medical practice has been closed due to the overwhelming messages flooding his phone lines and a petition demanding justice for Cecil has gathered nearly 57,000 signatures.
“I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favourite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt,” Mr Palmer said in a statement.
“I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.”
Palmer is well known in hunting circles around America and as recently as 2008, faced federal charges for the poaching of a black bear in Wisconsin.
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) July 28, 2015
Whilst Palmer pleaded ignorance to his abhorrent crime, Ndlovu and Bronkhurst will face criminal poaching charges on Wednesday – according to the Zimbabwean Parks Authority.
“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,” it said in a statement.
Cecil leaves behind a litter of cubs, who are likely to be killed by the next Lion to take over Cecil’s position in the pride.