5 Aug 2015

Cecil the lion: Zimbabwe hunter appears in court

A Zimbabwean hunter charged in connection with the killing of Cecil the lion has appeared in court.

Theo Bronkhorst was arrested last week for breaching hunting rules when he helped American dentist Walter Palmer illegalally kill the country’s most famous and studied lion.

Cecil was shot with a bow by Mr Palmer, who is believed to have paid about $50,000 for the privilege. The 13-year-old lion had been studied by scientists from Oxford University as part of a project that has run since 1999. His death sparked international outrage and brought into question big game “trophy” hunting.

Mr Bronkhorst, who believes his permit was above board, has publicly denied any wrongdoing and told journalists asking about the case: “I think it’s frivolous and I think it’s wrong”.

He added that hunting was an “integral” part of Zimbabwe’s culture and “it has got to continue…if we do not use wildlife sustainably there will be no wildlife”.

‘Horrifying situation’

The lion’s death has put a spotlight on big game killing and the UK government has now said it is looking at whether to ban the remains of legally-hunted animals being brought into the country.

Environment Minister Rory Stewart announced a £5m fund for initiatives that tackle the illegal wildlife trade and poaching.

Mr Stewart condemned the “horrifying situation”, saying Cecil’s slaughter was “an illegal action, a disgusting action” and “one that we completely condemn”.

“Conservation, in the end, has to work with the countries in which the animals are located,” he said.

“We are working here from Britain, but the best way we can do this is by supporting African countries, supporting the countries where the animals are and listening to those governments.”