The lion was one of the main attractions at the Hwange National Park and was also studied as part of a research programme. According to reports the lion was lured from the park before Palmer shot it with a hunting bow.
Theo Bronkhorst, who organised the tour, and Honest Ndlovu from Antoinette farm in Gwayi Conservancy, Hwange district, where the lion was lured to, appeared in court on 29 July on poaching charges. If convicted, both men could face a 15-year jail sentence, according to reports.
“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,” said the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe in a joint statement.
According to the statement both the professional hunter and land owner had no permit or quota “to justify the offtake of the lion”. They are therefore both liable for the illegal hunt.
The Zimbabwean wildlife authority said Bronkhorst’s licence has been suspended with immediate effect and that the lion trophy has been confiscated.
Palmer, it was reported, paid Bronkhorst R630 000 to help him lure the lion out of the park before he shot, skinned and beheaded the animal.
“The entire team that killed the lion Cecil should go to jail, including the Minneapolis dentist,” read a tweet from Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the US House of Representatives.
Palmer, meanwhile, continues to maintain that he did not know the lion was a protected animal.