The killing of a popular Hwange National Park lion has caused international outrage, with global news networks covering the story extensively.
The collared 13-year-old lion, affectionately known as Cecil, was killed early this month at Antoinette Farm by a suspected foreign hunter.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
A professional hunter Theo Bronchrost and his employee Honest Trymore Ndlovu have been arrested in connection with the death of the lion and would appear at the Victoria Falls Magistrates’ Court today.
Bronchrost and Ndlovu allegedly connived with a United States hunter identified as Walter James Palmer to kill the lion for trophy.
“Theo Bronkhorst, a professional hunter with Bushman Safaris, is facing criminal charges for allegedly killing a collared lion on Antoinette Farm in Gwayi Conservancy, Hwange district on 1 July 2015,” the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) said in a statement.
Zimparks said Bronkhorst and the professional hunter had no authority to hunt the lion.
“All persons implicated in this case are due to appear in court facing poaching charges,” the authority added.
“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 lion was allegedly tempted outside the giant park using bait and then shot. Zimparks said the lion trophy had been confiscated.
Meanwhile, the Safari Operators’ Association of Zimbabwe (SOAZ) chairperson Emmanuel Fundira described the killing of the lion as a sad development that will taint the country’s tourism industry.
“There was a tragic incident that took place outside Hwange National Park on July 6, 2015. It was tragic in that we lost one of the icons, a male lion popularly known as Cecil,” Fundira told journalists in Harare.
“Cecil was collared, it is an animal under surveillance and used for research on many things.
“Cecil was an icon and 13 years old, who was well known by the international community.
“The reason why we are very sad and rattled by this development is that a lot of people travelled long distances to Zimbabwe to enjoy our wildlife and obviously the killing of Cecil is a disaster,” he said.
Fundira claimed the hunter paid his alleged accomplices $55 000 for the lion that was valued at $100 000.
According to SOAZ and the Zimparks, Bronchrost had no hunting quota for 2015.Bronkhosrt’s licence was suspended with immediate effect.
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.”
Major news networks such as CNN, British newspapers like the Telegraph and Guardian have covered Cecil’s story extensively.