As the outrage continued to grow over the hunting death of one of Africa's most iconic lions, two Zimbabwean men who allegedly received $50,000 from the American tourist who killed Cecil the lion arrived in court to face poaching charges related to the illegal hunt, Reuters reported.
Professional hunter Theo Bronchorst and land owner Honest Trymore Ndlovu allegedly tied a dead animal to a vehicle to lure the beloved lion outside a national park so that American Walter James Palmer could kill him, according to conservationists in Zimbabwe.
The two Zimbabwean men appeared at the Hwange magistrate’s court on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. They were charged with poaching offenses and for not having the required hunting permit, according to the BBC, which reported that the men were granted bail of $1,000 each and ordered to appear in court again next week.
Palmer shot Cecil with a bow and arrow, injuring it, according to an account detailed by non-governmental group, Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force. After tracking the 13-year-old lion for about 40 hours, Palmer is alleged to have killed the animal with a gun. Cecil was then beheaded and skinned.
Zimbabwean authorities said Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, could face charges as well; he has been accused by wildlife officials of killing Cecil without a permit, Reuters reported.
“We'll see how it plays out,” Caroline Washaya-Moyo, a spokeswoman for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, told The Post on Tuesday. She added that professional hunters and land owners typically first face charges in such cases.
Palmer, who has reportedly left Zimbabwe, said Tuesday that "I deeply regret" having killed "a known, local favorite" and that he may have been misled by his hunting guides.
“I hired several professional guides, and they secured all proper permits,” read a statement from Palmer to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted.”
He added: “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. I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion."
Palmer said he hasn't been contacted by American or Zimbabwean officials "but will assist them in any inquires they may have."
Cecil, thought to have been killed July 1, was one of Africa's most famous lions and lived in the massive Hwange National Park.
“It is alleged that the hunter connived with the Antoinette land owner, Mr. Honest Trymore Ndlovu to kill the lion,” read a joint statement from the parks service and the Safari Operators Association. “Ongoing investigations to date suggest that the killing of the lion was illegal since the land owner was not allocated a lion on his hunting quota for 2015. Therefore, all persons implicated in this case are due to appear in court facing poaching charges.”
The lion’s death on private land outside the park's boundary was condemned by the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association and set off a wave of international outrage that centered on Palmer after he was named in connection to the hunt.
Angry commenters have inundated the Yelp and Google Review pages for Palmer's dental practice, and he has been vilified across social media, as #CecilTheLion became a top worldwide trending topic on Twitter.
Local police are now monitoring Palmer's office, the Associated Press reported. Protesters have placed a small pile of stuffed animal toys at the dental practice's front door.
The voice-mail inbox at Palmer’s dental practice in Minnesota was full Tuesday, and an e-mail from The Post to the practice was not answered.
Citing court records, Palmer pleaded guilty in 2008 to making a false statement to U.S. wildlife officials regarding the location of a black bear killing in Wisconsin during a guided hunt, the New York Times reported.
According to the AP:
Palmer had a permit to hunt but shot the animal outside the authorized zone in 2006, then tried to pass it off as being killed elsewhere, according to court documents.
He was given one year probation and fined nearly $3,000.
The Times chronicled Palmer going on a big game hunt in 2009, a year after he began probation.
As the 2009 season approached, Walter J. Palmer, a dentist in his late 40s from Eden Prairie, Minn., paid $45,000 for a tag at an auction to finance preservation of the elk habitat. Palmer, said to be capable of skewering a playing card from 100 yards with his compound bow, has cultivated a purist’s reputation for his disinclination to carry firearms as backup. Learning to shoot at age 5, he has slain all but one of the animals recognized by Pope and Young.
“I don’t have a golf game,” Palmer said.
According to park and safari officials in Zimbabwe, authorities were trying to interview another professional hunter — Zane Bronkhorst — who may have been involved in Cecil the lion's death.
The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, a nongovernmental organization, alleged that the hunters purposefully lured Cecil out of the park.
"They went hunting at night with a spotlight and they spotted Cecil," the group said in a statement. "They tied a dead animal to their vehicle to lure Cecil out of the park and they scented an area about half a kilometre from the park. Mr Palmer shot Cecil with a bow and arrow but this shot didn't kill him.
"They tracked him down and found him 40 hours later when they shot him with a gun. They found that he was fitted with a GPS collar because he was being studied by the Hwange Lion Research, funded by Oxford University so they tried to destroy the collar but failed because it was found."
Theo Bronkhorst owns Bushman Safaris, a company offering "top quality hunts with maximum results" and specializing in "leopards with dogs and other big game."
The company's Facebook page includes statements proclaiming that hunters help conservation efforts through the fees they pay to hunt big game:
This post, originally published July 28, has been updated.