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Zimbabwean authorities say killing Cecil the lion was definitely illegal

03 Aug 2015 at 06:46hrs | Views

Despite belated claims by American dentist Walter Palmer and Theo Bronkhorst, the professional hunter from Bushman Safaris that killing Cecil the lion was legal, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, have issued a press release categorically stating the hunt was "deliberate and illegal".

Oppah Muchinguir, the Zimbabwean Environment, Water and Climate Minister, endorsed the statement on Friday: "We want Palmer tried in Zimbabwe because he violated our laws."

"One can conclude with confidence that Dr Palmer had a well orchestrated agenda which would tarnish the image of Zimbabwe," the Parks Authority said, "This must be condemned in the strongest possible terms."

Zimbabwean law enforcement officers immediately started investigating the matter on the 7th of July 2015.

It was found that Honest Trymore Ndlovu, owner of Antoinette farm on the Gwayi River Conservancy adjacent to Hwange National Park where Cecil was shot, had been issued with a hunting quota for 2015, but it excluded lions. Zimbabwean authorities received a tip-off from an informer that the professional hunter, Theo Bronkhorst "illegally connived with Ndlovu to kill the lion", which is in violation of Section 59 of the Parks and Wildlife Act.

Parks Authority believes that the use of a bow and an arrow "was meant to conceal the illegal hunt by using a means that would not alert the rangers on patrol." Bow and arrow hunting is also regulated by the Parks and Wildife Act, which found the hunt in direct contravention of it.

Accordingly all three involved in the hunt have been charged with poaching, a serious offence in Zimbabwe that could lead to prison sentences of fifteen years.

"From investigations carried out so far it shows that the whole poaching event was properly orchestrated and well financed to make sure that it succeeds. The professional hunter, client and landowner were therefore all engaged in poaching of the lion," said the Parks Authority in their statement, which concluded: "Organized gangs such as this oneā€¦ undermine Zimbabwean laws, international laws and CITES regulations."

On Tuesday, Palmer, who went into hiding, issued a statement through a representative maintaining his innocence saying he relied on his guides to ensure the hunt was legal. But the professional hunter, Bronkhorst, also belives he did nothing wrong saying in a telephone interview: "I don't believe I failed in any duties at all, I was engaged by a client to do a hunt for him and we shot an old male lion that I believed was past his breeding age. I don't think that I've done anything wrong."

Muchinguir though wants justice to be carried out: "We want him [Palmer] tried in Zimbabwe.We are appealing to the responsible authorities for his extradition to Zimbabwe so that he be made accountable."

There is an extradition treaty between Zimbabwe and the United States.

A petition urging the Obama administration to turn Palmer over went past the threshold required for an official White House response. More than 160,000 people have signed the petition , which urges Secretary of State John Kerry and Attorney General Loretta Lynch "to fully cooperate with the Zimbabwe authorities and to extradite Walter Palmer promptly at the Zimbabwe government's request."
At the same time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is investigating the circumstances surrounding the killing of Cecil the lion.

They confirmed on Friday that Palmer is cooperating with their investigation after they issued a public demand for him to call them. The USFWS were voluntarily contacted by a representative of Dr. Walter Palmer who signaled his willingness to work with them.

This isn't the first time Palmer has been in trouble with the USFWS. They convicted him in 2009 for lying about a black bear kill in Wisconsin in 2008.

Furthermore, according to the Washington Post, Palmer's latest action may be in contravention of the U.S. Lacey Act, a conservation law meant to shield animals from harm. The act, tied to a United Nations treaty for the protection of animals, governs the actions of Americans who violate the laws of foreign governments.

In another development, both Bronkhorst and Palmer have been suspended from their respective hunting associations, Safari Club International and Zimbabwean Professional Hunters and Guides Association. the organisations have issued public statements condemning the hunt while the Dallas Safari Club, which came under fire last year for auctioning off a permit for a hunt that ultimately led to the killing of a black rhino in Namibia, disavowed Cecil's slaughter and called for a federal investigation.

Bronkhorst, meanwhile, was arrested and released on bail after appearing in court in Hwange.

Source - Conservation Action Trust
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