Two men are appearing in court in Zimbabwe on charges linked to the killing of Cecil, the country’s most famous lion.
Professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst and farm owner Honest Ndlovu, are charged with poaching offences for not having the required hunting permit.
US dentist Walter Palmer shot the animal with a bow and rifle.
Mr Palmer, who says he was unaware of the lion’s identity, paid for the hunt and could also face poaching charges.
BBC Africa Live: News updates
The two Zimbabwean men, who accompanied him on the hunt, could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.
Mr Palmer says he regrets shooting the well-known animal and believed he was on a legal hunt. He relied on professional guides to find a lion and obtain the necessary permits, he said.
Separately, court records have shown that the dentist has a felony record in the US after killing a black bear in the state of Wisconsin in 2006.
Cecil the lion (left) and Walter Palmer, the US dentist who killed the animal
Walter Palmer, who killed Cecil, said he had no idea the lion was a “local favourite”
He was given a one-year probation and fined $3,000 (£1,900), having shot the animal outside an authorised zone and then tried to pass it off as having been killed elsewhere.
Records from the Minnesota Board of Dentistry also show that Mr Palmer was the subject of a sexual harassment complaint which was settled in 2006.
A receptionist alleged that he had made indecent comments to her. Mr Palmer admitted no wrongdoing and agreed to pay out more than $127,000 (£81,000).
‘An activity I love’
The American tourist is believed to have paid about $50,000 (£32,000) to go on the hunt in Zimbabwe.
Cecil the lion was skinned and beheaded, according to the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF), a local charity.
More than 265,000 people have signed an online “Justice for Cecil” petition, calling on Zimbabwe’s government to stop issuing hunting permits for endangered animals.
As news of the killing and details about the perpetrator spread online, there has been a slew of comments on social media condemning Walter Palmer, with some people calling for him to face justice.
How the internet descended on the man who killed Cecil the lion
The killing has provoked outrage on social media
Mr Palmer insists that he believed his guides had secured “all proper permits” for the hunt.
“I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
He said he had not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or the US but would “assist them in any inquiries they may have”.
The dental offices of Walter Palmer in Bloomington, Minnesota – 28 July 2015
The dental practice run by Mr Palmer in Bloomington, Minnesota, was closed on Tuesday
The dentist is believed to be back in the US, although his exact whereabouts are unknown.
“Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practise responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion,” he said.
The dental practice run by Mr Palmer was closed on Tuesday and a note was placed on the door referring visitors to a public relations firm.
The practice’s Facebook page was removed from the site after being besieged by angry comments and the company website was also taken down.
Cecil the iconic lion
Cecil the lion, Paula French via AP, 2012
A major tourist attraction in Hwange National Park – Zimbabwe’s largest game reserve
The 13-year-old animal was renowned for being friendly towards visitors
Recognisable because of his large size and distinctive black mane
Led two prides containing six lionesses and 12 cubs along with another lion, Jericho
Was being monitored as part of an Oxford University study into lion conservation
Cecil was believed to have been killed on 1 July but the carcass was not discovered until a few days later.
The ZCTF said the hunters had used bait to lure him outside Hwange National Park during a night-time pursuit.
Mr Palmer is said to have shot Cecil with a bow, injuring the animal. The group did not find the wounded lion until 40 hours later, when he was shot dead with a gun.
The animal had a GPS collar fitted for a research project by UK-based Oxford University that allowed authorities to track its movements. The hunters tried to destroy it, but failed, according to the ZCTF.
On Monday, the head of the ZCTF told the BBC that Cecil “never bothered anybody” and was “one of the most beautiful animals to look at”.
The six cubs of Cecil will now be killed by the new male lion in the pride, Johnny Rodrigues added, in order to encourage the lionesses to mate with him.
“That’s how it works… it’s in the wild. It’s nature taking its course,” he added.
The killing of world famous Zimbabwean lion, Cecil, may represent just the tip of the iceberg, the president of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, Emmanuel Fundira has said.
Fundira told The Zimbabwean shortly after a press conference in Harare today that the killing of Cecil was a sophisticated operation conducted by a highly organised syndicate which may involve more people than those identified.
“It’s possible that some of the cases may go unnoticed and there could be collusion involving a number of individuals. The $55,000 could have found its way around a number of people,” Fundira said.
During the press conference Fundira revealed that the lion was shot at 10 pm at the beginning of this month by American Walter James Palmer from Minnesota.
“Cecil was killed using a bow hunt, a silent weapon revealing the intent to conceal what happened,” he said.
A joint press statement by SOAZ and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority issued earlier said that the professional hunter involved, Theo Bronkhurst and the owner of Antoinette Farm, Honest Trymore Ndlovu are being charged for illegally hunting the lion.
Fundira said the killing of Cecil represented a loss for the country both in heritage and financial terms.
“The proper market value for a lion like Cecil would be around $100,000”.
“Since this was not a legal hunt it means this money is not directly accruing to the people and government of Zimbabwe. The area where the lion was killed did not have a hunting quota for lions for 2015”.
The SOAZ president refuted what he called allegations in the international media that Cecil’s death illustrated poor wildlife conservation.
“We are very conscious of conservation and we use hunting as a conservation tool and we use quotas. The hunting methods we use involves the use of a fair chase which still provides the required experience for the tourist even when the animal might not get killed,” he said.
Cecil was part of an Oxford University research project and wore a GPS collar.
“We lost an icon. Cecil was very well known in the international community. The absence of Cecil is a disaster in terms of the disappointment it has caused,” Fundira said.
Ndlovu and Bronkhurst will appear in court tomorrow, Wednesday July 29. Bronkhorst’s licence has also been suspended with immediate effect. The lion trophy has been confiscated and will be used as an exhibit in court.
Bonkhorst has also been suspended from The Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association.
Accrding to Fundira Bronkhorst’s son, Zane who was being sought by the police has been caught.
By The Zimbabwean
Politics is more profitable in large groups, but political competition will be stiffer in such large groups.
HARARE – Elton Mangoma, the suspended MDC deputy treasurer-general, has dismissed charges that he embezzled party funds to launch his presidential bid as a smear campaign.
The party congress should come sooner before many more people are maimed for speaking loud against our political leader who lacks the oratory skill and stature to command a following by the generality of Zimbabweans.
In yesterday’s issue we carried a story headlined: Tsvangirai chosen by God — Chamisa in which the young MDC-T national organising secretary dangerously claimed that his party’s leader Morgan Tsvangirai was anointed by God to lead the struggle for democracy (and by implication MDC-T). Chamisa, by saying this, typifies what sycophants do — creating cult-like leaders out of people they fawn at to curry favour.
FACTIONAL fighting within the former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party went a rung up after party spokesperson and lawyer Douglas Mwonzora yesterday appeared in court to defend four activists charged with assaulting deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma two weeks ago.