Cecil the lion – the most famous creature in one of Zimbabwe’s national parks – was killed by an American hunter who has boasted about shooting a menagerie of animals with his bow and arrow.
Conservationists in Zimbabwe have accused an American man named Walter James Palmer of being the alleged killer of Cecil, one of Africa’s most famous lions and the star attraction at the Hwange national park.
Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, went to Zimbabwe in July, he found a way around this law. According to the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority, two locals are facing charges for assisting in Cecil’s killing: a hunter identified as Theo Bronkhorst and a local farmer identified as Honest Trymore Ndlovu.
The hunt took place around 6 July. “They went hunting at night with a spotlight and they spotted Cecil,” Rodrigues said. “They tied a dead animal to their vehicle to lure Cecil out of the park and they scented an area about half a kilometer from the park.”
Conservation groups reacted angrily to the news that the 13-year-old animal had been killed: partly because the lion was known to visitors and seemingly enjoyed human contact, and partly because of the way in which he was killed. He was lured out of the national park and shot.
A spokesman for Palmer told the Guardian that the hunter was “obviously quite upset over everything”.
“As far as I understand, Walter believes that he might have shot that lion that has been referred to as Cecil,” the spokesman said. “What he’ll tell you is that he had the proper legal permits and he had hired several professional guides, so he’s not denying that he may be the person who shot this lion. He is a big-game hunter; he hunts the world over.”
Palmer was the subject of a 2009 New York Times story about hunting a record-setting elk. The newspaper reported at the time that Palmer had pleaded guilty to making a false statement to federal wildlife officials in relation to the killing of a black bear in Wisconsin.
Lion hunting using firearms is legal in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Tanzania – and bow and arrow hunting is legal in all the same countries but Tanzania.