Monday 21 May 2018

American tourist suspected of killing 'iconic' Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe

The much-loved Zimbabwean lion
The much-loved Zimbabwean lion "Cecil" was allegedly killed by an American tourist using a bow and arrow Credit: AFP/Getty Images

David Kearns

An American dentist has been identified as the hunter who used a bow and arrow to kill one of Africa's most famous lions.

Cecil the lion – a national symbol for Zimbabwe conservation efforts – was found skinned and beheaded less than 40 miles from the national park were he lived with his pride.

It is believed that a dentist from Minnesota paid €50,000 ($55,000) to shoot and kill the much-loved lion with a bow and arrow three weeks ago.

The animal was lured from the national park, were it is illegal to hunt animals, and was shot with a crossbow.

Fleeing from the attack, it took more than 40 hours for the hunters to track Cecil and finish him off with a rifle, the Zimbabwe authorities said.

The Telegraph is reporting that local sources have confirmed to the newspaper the identity of the hunter who killed the much-beloved lion.

Cecil the lion, weeks before he was killed and skinned in Zimbabwe Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Cecil the lion, weeks before he was killed and skinned in Zimbabwe Credit: AFP/Getty Images

It added that the American hunter boasts about shooting a menagerie of animals with his bow and arrow.

It has been confirmed that a well-known local hunter is to appear before a  Zimbabwean court later this week on poaching charges for allegedly killing Cecil.

A statement issued by the Zimbabwean Parks Authority made no reference to reports that it was a wealthy American man who had killed Cecil with a bow and arrow after paying a €50 000 fee.

“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,” the statement said.

“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,” it added.

Cecil was lured at night about half a mile out of the national park using bait, and then shot with a bow and arrow.

The next day the 13-year-old lion was found wounded by the hunters and killed, before being beheaded and skinned.

“Cecil’s death is a tragedy, not only because he was a symbol of Zimbabwe but because now we have to give up for dead his six cubs, as a new male won’t allow them to live so as to encourage Cecil’s three females to mate,” said Johnny Rodrigues, head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force.

“The two people who accompanied the hunter have been arrested but we haven’t yet tracked down the hunter.”

Mr Rodrigues said Cecil’s head and skin had been found and confiscated, and were being processed as evidence.

 The Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association admitted that its members were involved and that the case was being investigated.

The 13-year-old lion was wearing a GPS collar as part of a research project that Oxford University has been running since 1999, making it possible to trace its last movements when it was tricked into leaving the park and shot with a bow and arrow.

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