Zimbabwe: Lion Killer American Dentist Didn’t Know Animal Was ‘Local Favorite’

Zimbabwe: Lion Killer American Dentist Didn’t Know Animal Was ‘Local Favorite’
Lion Peter Harrison / Flickr CC BY 2.0

Zimbabwe police are searching for an American man in connection with the killing of a well-known and protected lion, a case that has drawn international attention.


The culprit responsible for killing Cecil the lion has been identified as Walter James Palmer of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, according to Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force.

The lion was killed on July 1 in Hwange National Park.

The case was met with sharp criticism and angry reactions from conservation groups in Zimbabwe, who say that the 13-year-old animal was popular among visitors and enjoyed human contact.

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The lion was killed after being lured out of the national park.

“[Cecil] never bothered anybody,” Rodrigues said, as reported by The Telegraph.

“He was one of the most beautiful animals to look at.”

Emmanuel Fundira, the president of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, said that Palmer’s whereabouts were not known. He is still being sought.

Two Zimbabwean men – a professional hunter (identified as Theo Bronkhorst) and a farm owner – have been arrested in connection with the case. The individuals face poaching charges, the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority and the Safari Operators Association said in a joint statement.

The statement further said that the killing was unlawful as the farm owner did not have the appropriate license. Cecil was skinned and beheaded; and while the hunters attempted to destroy the lion’s collar, they couldn’t accomplish it.

The men could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

“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,” Zimbabwe National Parks said in a statement.

“All persons implicated in this case are due to appear in court facing poaching charges.

“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.”

According to Boston Herald, the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said that Palmer had paid $50,000 for the hunt. Rodrigues said that the American, along with the two Zimbabwe men, strapped a dead animal to their car to lure the lion out of the national park; following which Palmer injured the lion by shooting it with a crossbow.

The animal was discovered dead 40 hours later.

Bronkhorst said he admitted the “mistake” to the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority the next day, a matter which is currently being looked into. Bronkhorst and the farm owner are due to appear in court on August 6.

Bronkhorst expressed that he was unaware of the lion’s fame.

“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,” he said.

According to CNN, Palmer said in a statement, “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 favorite, 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 further said that he would show cooperation and assist in the investigation.

“Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion,” he said.

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