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Zimbabwe Postpones Trial in Killing of Cecil the Lion


FILE - Cecil the lion is seen in this frame grab taken from a November 2012 video made available by Paula French.

FILE - Cecil the lion is seen in this frame grab taken from a November 2012 video made available by Paula French.

A Zimbabwe court has postponed the trial for a Zimbabwean hunter accused of helping an American kill an “iconic” lion called Cecil.

Magistrate Lindiwe Maphosa said she has delayed the trial of Zimbabwean hunter Theodore Bronkhorst until late next month.

Bronkhorst’s lawyer Givemore Muvhingi spoke to reporters Wednesday after a short court session in Hwange, about 700 kilometers southwest of Harare where the hunt took place in early July.

"We have sought a postponement of this matter to the 28th of September because we have briefed an advocate who will only be available to come to trial on 28 of September. Currently she is tied up, that is all I can say," said Muvhingi.

Zimbabwean hunter

Bronkhorst, a professional Zimbabwean hunter, was in a defiant mood, however, when asked by reporters about the charges he is facing. "It is crazy ... absolutely. I do not have further comments, thank you."

Bronkhorst is believed to have received $55,000 for safari guide services from Walter Palmer, an American dentist who shot the lion with a bow and arrow. Zimbabwean authorities charge the hunt was illegal, and said the lion may have been lured off protected land.

The black-maned lion was a known attraction at the park and wearing a tracking collar as part of an Oxford University study.

Authorities said the hunters lured Cecil out of the park, where it is illegal to hunt, and shot him outside the park boundaries using a bow and arrow. After tracking the injured lion for 40 hours, they then shot him with a gun.

The killing has drawn international condemnation.

Defending practice

Bronkhorst said he has not done anything illegal and Zimbabwe needs hunters.

Zimbabwe is seeking the extradition of Palmer, who has not been seen in public since Cecil's killing became public.

"It is an integral part of our country, and if we do not use wildlife sustainably there will be no wildlife,” said Bronkhorst.

FILE - A combination photo shows Zimbabwean safari operator Honest Ndlovu (R) and fellow countryman and hunter Theo Bronkhorst waiting to appear in Hwange magistrates court, July 29, 2015.

FILE - A combination photo shows Zimbabwean safari operator Honest Ndlovu (R) and fellow countryman and hunter Theo Bronkhorst waiting to appear in Hwange magistrates court, July 29, 2015.

Following the killing of Cecil, President Robert Mugabe’s government has banned trophy hunting in Zimbabwe.

But the activity is a source of income for the bankrupt government, last year generating $42 million from hunting licenses.

Earlier this week, three major U.S. airlines – Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines – responded by banning the shipment of hunting trophies, following similar prohibitions put in place by Emirates and South African Airways.

The ban prevents carrying lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies.

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