Two Zimbabweans accused of helping a US tourist in killing a lion wearing a tracking collar were released on bail of $1 000 (R12 577) each, their lawyer, Givemore Mavhingi, said on Wednesday.
The court case against Theo Bronkhorst and Honest Trymore Ndlovu will resume on August 5 in the town of Hwange, about 700km south-west of the capital, Harare, according to Mavhingi.
Previous reports described Bronkhorst as a hunting guide and Ndlovu as a farm owner.
The report of the death of Cecil, a wild lion popular with tourists through wildlife research funded by Oxford University, for which he was GPS tagged, caused a storm of internet outrage.
On Tuesday, US dentist Walter James Palmer was identified as the trophy hunter who first shot Cecil in a night time bow hunt, before eventually killing the lion with a gunshot.
Palmer issued a statement blaming his local guides, saying he had been led to believe the hunt early this month was “legal and properly handled and conducted”.
Meanwhile, wildlife enthusiasts and anti-hunting lobbyists said some good would emerge from Cecil’s death.
There has been unprecedented outrage this week from wildlife experts and social media as details of the lion’s painful death emerged.
Cecil, the 12-year-old lion, was wounded at about 10pm on July 1.
According to Bronkhorst, the Zimbabwean who arranged the hunt on a commercial farm adjacent to Hwange National Park, they could not tell the lion was wounded that night, but returned the next morning, and when they saw he was injured, they immediately killed him to put him out of pain.
Zimbabwe’s wildlife authority and lion experts believe Cecil’s death would focus attention on ethics in hunting in Zimbabwe and other African countries.
Zimbabwean, Brent Stapelcamp, field researcher for Oxford University’s Hwange Lion Research Project, had been monitoring Cecil and other lions in Hwange National Park for nine years. His group works closely with the government’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.
Although outraged at his death, Stapelcamp said he believed local and international fury would produce reforms to hunting.
“Cecil’s death has a silver lining, it will change lion conservation because so many are involved in this story. World opinion is against hunting and it will have to be cleaned up.
“The hunters must learn to stick to ethics, and ensure that animals have a fair chance (in the hunt) and hunters must also put their money back into wildlife conservation.”
Cecil, although in his prime, was one of only three or maybe four male lions that old in the park, as most die naturally, much younger.
He was a favourite with tourists because he did not flee from safari vehicles and therefore many were able to see him up close. His fame spread over the years and visitors regularly asked guides to find him for them.
“I was trained and taught that hunting was good for conservation. That is no longer the case and people have got away with so much for years. Hunting needs to be cleaned up,” Stapelcamp said.
He said many hunters had the head of the animal they killed cured at taxidermists in Zimbabwe, then took their trophies home. Stapelcamp said some American hunters deemed the size of the trophy important which contributed to distortions in hunting.
Cecil was wearing a collar as he had long been part of Oxford University's project and Stapelcamp became concerned when signal from it died.
He installed the collar, Cecil’s fourth, and told Independent Newspapers that he had asked parks officials to look for the old lion, and gave them the GPS from the last signal.
They found his carcass, minus the head which the American hunter had taken away to be cured and which Zimbabwe police may have recovered.
“We were devastated when we found the collar and realised he was tagged (for the project.)
“I did not know Cecil was a famous lion. He was a magnificent specimen,” Bronkhorst said, speaking from Zambia last weekend where he was arranging to collect sable to boost Zimbabwe’s wildlife.
National Parks said Cecil was poached because there was no permit to hunt him.
“Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management, as the Regulatory Authority and custodian of all wild animals in Zimbabwe, issues hunting permits and hunting quota for all hunting areas in Zimbabwe so that only animals on quota are to be hunted.
“In this case, 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,” National Parks said.
Daily News Foreign Service