Here are the details and recent updates to the story about the African lion dubbed “Cecil” that was killed outside of the Zimbabwe Hwange National Park.
While there are still a number of details to the “Cecil the lion” story that are fuzzy and vary from one news report to another, the following are what appear to be the consensus.
On July 1, at least three individuals were involved in the killing of a lion outside of the Zimbabwe Hwange National Park. The lion was a 13-year old animal that was well-known to park staff and regular visitors, and was known as “Cecil.”
Cecil had become something of a symbol for the park, and had also been outfitted with a GPS tracking collar as part of a study being undertaken in concert with Oxford University.
The three individuals who have been identified as being directly involved in the incident are professional hunter and guide Theo Bronchorst; landowner Honest Trymore Ndlovu; and Walter Palmer, a dentist from Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
There has been some speculation that some park staff may also have been involved in the incident, but that remains unclear at this point.
Palmer reportedly paid $50,000 to $55,000 to hunt the lion.
Bronchorst, with the possible assistance of Ndlovu and/or Palmer (there are conflicting reports on who exactly was involved in this part of the incident) allegedly lured Cecil from his normal habitat of the Hwange Park, where hunting is prohibited, by dragging an animal carcass from a vehicle. They lured the big cat onto Ndlovu’s property, where it is legal to shoot.
Palmer, a bowhunter, shot the lion and wounded it. Some reports say he used a crossbow, others say bow and arrow.
Authorities claim that the men tracked the lion for around 40 hours before finding it and dispatching it with a rifle. They then skinned and beheaded the lion, leaving the carcass to be found by park staff via the GPS collar that had been placed on the lion.
Zimbabwean authorities insist that the three men are guilty of poaching for not having the necessary permits to hunt and kill a lion. Bronchorst and Ndlovu were arrested and made a court appearance today (July 29), after which they were released on $1,000 bond.
A statement released by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority confirmed the criminal charge related to the illegal hunt for Bronchorst, and the order that all persons implicated in the report are due in court to face poaching charges.
Bronchorst and Ndlovu dispute the charges, claiming that they had the required permits and permissions.
Bronchorst said, “It was a magnificent, mature lion. We did not know it was well-known lion. I had a licence for my client to shoot a lion with a bow and arrow in the area where it was shot.”
For his part, Palmer admits that he shot the lion but did not realize that it was a well-known lion. He issued a statement to the Guardian saying, in part,
I hired several professionals and they secured all proper permits. To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted. 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. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.
Palmer is reportedly in Minnesota where he lives and runs his dental practice.