A high court in Zimbabwe has cleared a professional hunter in connection with the death of Cecil the lion.
The death of the animal – which was allegedly lured out of its home in Hwange National Park, shot with a bow and arrow and left to bled to death in July 2015 – provoked outrage around the world with many calling for an end to trophy hunting.
The US dentist who shot it, Walter Palmer, was forced to temporarily go into hiding after facing death threats and protests outside his practice in Bloomington, Minnesota.
But on Friday the court ruled that Theo Bronkhorst, the professional hunter and guide who organised the trip, should not face criminal charges.
His lawyers successfully argued that the charge of "failing to prevent an illegal hunt" was too vague to answer and although he had breached National Parks regulations this did not amount to a criminal offence, the BBC reported.
The charges against Mr Palmer had been dropped by the court in October 2015.
Cecil had been wearing a GPS collar at the time of his death as he was participating in research by the University of Oxford – allowing park rangers to monitor his movements.
The most controversial animal killings
The most controversial animal killings
1/6 Cincinnati Zoo worker shots and kills Harambe, the 17-year-old gorilla
Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla was shot and killed by a Cincinnati Zoo worker after a three-year-old boy climbed into a gorilla enclosure and was grabbed and dragged by Harambe. The incident was recorded on video and received broad international coverage and commentary, including controversy over the choice to kill Harambe. A number of primatologists and conservationists wrote later that the zoo had no other choice under the circumstances, and that it highlighted the danger of zoo animals in close proximity to humans and the need for better standards of care
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
2/6 Walt Palmer (left), from Minnesota, who killed Cecil, the Zimbabwean lion (pictured here with another lion shot in Africa)
Walter James Palmer has been named by Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force as the shooter of Cecil, a 13-year-old prized lion. He is now wanted by Zimbabwe officials on poaching charges. The lion was protected and the subject of a decade long study by the Wildlife Unit of Oxford University in the UK. He was outfitted with a GPS collar and was killed in Hwange National Park. The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority and the Safari Operators Association said that two men were charged with poaching in connection to Mr Palmer
3/6 Kendall Jones hunting images
Kendall Jones, a 19-year-old Texas Tech university student, has provoked worldwide fury after posting pictures of herself smiling next to animals she hunted, including a lion, rhinoceros, antelope, leopard, elephant, zebra and hippopotamus
4/6 Rebecca Francis hunting images
Rebecca Francis, a huntress who has killed dozens of wild animals has been sent death wishes by furious social media users after a picture showing her lying down next to a dead giraffe was circulated. Rebecca Francis has a website and Facebook page dedicated to the animals she has killed in hunts across Africa and America. Francis, a prolific hunter who has also co-hosted the television show Eye of the Hunter, regularly posts pictures of herself posing next to dead bears, giraffes, buffaloes and zebras, among other animals. She uses a bow and arrow to kill her prey
5/6 The slaughter of Marius, an 18-month-old healthy giraffe in Copenhagen Zoo
Copenhagen Zoo made the controversial decision to euthanise a healthy giraffe named Marius, which was later dissected and fed to lions as visitors watched. The slaughter sparked a furious backlash from social media users and zoo staff have received death threats by phone and email. Soon after the incident, Copenhagen Zoo faced an international outcry once again after four healthy lions were put down
6/6 Swiss Dählhölzli zoo kills healthy brown bear cub
A Switzerland zoo faced heavy criticism from animal rights groups, after keepers put down a healthy brown bear cub to spare it from being bullied by its dominant male father. The 360 kg male bear Misha had already killed one of his 11-week old cubs in public and was bullying the second, staff at the zoo said, because he was jealous of the attention the cubs were receiving from their mother, Masha. Both adult brown bears had been donated to Bern’s Dählhölzli zoo in 2009. Campaigners condemned staff there for not separating the cubs, who are being referred to as Baby Bear Two and Baby Bear Three, and their mother from Misha after their birth in January
The animal was famous in Zimbabwe and tourists would travel from all over the world to go on safari in the hopes of seeing him.
Following his death, donations to animal conservation charities in the region began to flood in leading to the foundation of the Conservation Wildlife Fund which funds community and conservation projects with a voluntary levy of $10 (£7.50) a night on rooms in the park.
Due to a range of factors including poaching and loss of habitat, the lion population in Africa has dwindled to just 25,000. 450 of these live in Hwange National Park.Reuse content