Cecil hunt organiser to stand trial

  • 05/08/2015
Theo Bronkhorst (Reuters)
Theo Bronkhorst (Reuters)

The professional Zimbabwean hunter who led the expedition that killed Cecil the lion is due to stand trial on charges of organising an illegal hunt.

Theo Bronkhorst, who runs a safari company, denies any wrongdoing over the hunt in early July when American dentist Walter Palmer paid US$55,000 (NZ$84,176) to shot the lion with a bow and arrow.

The hunt provoked worldwide outrage when it emerged that Cecil was a well-known attraction among visitors to the Hwange National Park and was wearing a tracking collar as part of an Oxford University research project.

Palmer, an experienced trophy hunter, has become the target of vicious abuse and death threats over the killing, and has been in hiding since demonstrations outside his dental practice.

He has apologised for killing Cecil, who was renowned for his distinctive black mane, and has blamed Bronkhorst for misleading him.

But Bronkhorst says he's innocent of all charges and had obtained the permits required to kill an elderly lion that was outside the national park boundaries.

"We shot an old male lion that I believed was past his breeding age," Bronkhorst told AFP last week. "I don't think that I've done anything wrong."

The case will be held at Hwange court from Wednesday.

The hunting of lions, leopards and elephants in the area around the national park in western Zimbabwe has been suspended, as has hunting with bows and arrows.