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Scot-Free: Professional Hunter Who Helped Kill Cecil the Lion Acquitted by Zimbabwe Court

Nov 14, 2016 04:00 AM EST

Zimbabwe court has cleared Theo Bronkhorst, the professional hunter who assisted American hunter Walter Palmer and killer of the famous Cecil the Lion, of all criminal charges. Originally charged with failing to stop an illegal hunt, the court ruled that the charges against Bronkhorst "were too vague to enable to him to mount a proper defence."

In an interview with the BBC, Bronkhorst’s legal counsel, Pepertua Dube, said the offense did not have the force of the law and was neither criminal in nature. As a professional hunter, more locally known as “PH,” Bronkhorst’s role was only to arrange trips, secure necessary permits and licenses, attending to the needs of the client, and ensuring that the hunt abides by all the laws required.

On July 1, 2015, American dentist Walter Palmer paid a whopping $54,000 to bow-hunt Cecil the Lion, a major tourist attraction at Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. Palmer’s team, including Bronkhorst, shot Cecil with a bow in a nearby farm outside the park, where he occasionally wandered to explore, and then tracked him again for an additional 11 hours before finally putting an end to the animal’s life.

Despite clamor from wildlife conservationists and outrage from public expressed on major social media platforms for justice, everyone responsible for Cecil the Lion’s death remains unpunished: Honest Ndlovu, who owns the farm where Cecil was shot, posted bail in August with no clear case against him. Palmer, on the other hand, never had any charges against him, with the government of Zimbabwe retracting initial efforts to extradite him and closing the case by declaring that the documentation for the hunt was proper, National Geographic reports.

Cecil the Lion is popular among tourists because of his friendly nature and is a main feature in the park’s photographic safaris. The 13-year-old black-maned lion was the leader of two prides composed of another lion named Jericho, six lionesses and 12 cubs. Ironically, Cecil was also a part of an Oxford research program about lion conservation.

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