Zimbabwe Abandoned Case Against US Dentist Who Killed Cecil The Lion

Harare (AFP) - Zimbabwe on Monday abandoned its bid to press charges against a US dentist who killed Cecil the lion, saying his papers "were in order" and that he did not know he was committing any offence.

The black-maned lion was shot dead with a powerful bow and arrow in July by US trophy hunter Walter Palmer in a hunt that provoked worldwide outrage.

Palmer paid $55,000 (50,000 euros) to shoot the lion on an expedition led by professional Zimbabwean hunter Theo Bronkhorst.

The hunt provoked a storm of criticism after 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.

But a Zimbabwean government minister on Monday said they would not pursue any legal proceedings against Palmer.

Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri told reporters Palmer's "papers were in order" when he came to Zimbabwe.

- A legal hunt? -

"We are now going to review how we issue hunting quotas," Muchinguri said.

"The documents were there... The problem now remains internal."

The dentist was welcome to return to Zimbabwe but "not for hunting", she added.

Muchinguri had previously called for Palmer to be extradited from the US.

Palmer was hounded on social media over the killing and, after demonstrations outside his dental practice in Minnesota, went into hiding for weeks.

He later apologised for killing Cecil, a 13-year-old male renowned for his distinctive black mane.

Palmer said he believed it was a legal hunt and appeared to blame Bronkhorst for misleading him.

Muchinguri said Honest Ndlovu, the local landowner, did not have a hunting quota for a lion but that the rural district council covering the land did have one.

Bronkhorst has been charged with "failing to prevent an illegal hunt" and is due back in court on Thursday when the judge is due to decide on his application to have the case against him thrown out.

Bronkhorst has always denied any wrongdoing, saying he had obtained all the permits required to kill an elderly lion that was outside the national park boundaries.

When Palmer returned to work in September, a handful of protesters stood outside his dentist practice holding signs declaring "Stop Trophy Hunting" and "Animals Not Trophies."

Palmer, 55, said the ordeal had affected his wife and daughter, who had been threatened on social media.

"I don't understand that level of humanity to come after people not involved at all," he said in an interview.

Images of the dentist grinning over dead prey from previous hunts -- a limp leopard, a rhino, an elk, a big horned sheep, a cape buffalo -- circulated widely on the Internet, feeding the firestorm of anger.

Radical US animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) even called for Palmer to be hanged, and animal activist Brigitte Bardot described him as a "serial killer".

Bronkhorst, who was granted $1,000 bail in the Cecil case, was also arrested in September on separate charges of planning to smuggle 29 sable antelopes -- a rare and expensive breed -- into South Africa.

Source: Fanuel Jongwe
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