Two men have appeared in court in Zimbabwe over the killing of Cecil the lion, while the American dentist who paid to shoot him with a bow and arrow continues to deny any wrongdoing and a barrage of abuse and criticism.
Walter Palmer, from Minneapolis, is believed to have returned to the US after the hunt earlier this month where he allegedly paid about $50,000 (£32,000) to kill the famous lion.
A local charity claims Cecil took 40 hours to die after being shot by an arrow and was skinned and beheaded, with the head taken as a trophy for Dr Palmer.
The lion’s death has provoked global outrage, forcing the practice where he worked to close and seeing people threaten to “hunt” Dr Palmer and kill him in revenge in a tide of online abuse.
“Nothing in this world would give me greater pleasure than to see your head mounted on a wall, your carcass defiled, degraded and paraded as you did to Cecil and near countless other animals,” one person on his practice’s Facebook page.
Celebrities have also condemned the hunt, with Sharon Osborne writing: "I hope that #WalterPalmer loses his home, his practice & his money. He has already lost his soul."
Almost 300,000 people have also signed a petition to Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe demanding "justice" for Cecil and calling for hunting reforms.
Dr Palmer has not yet been charged with any offence but the guide who took him on the hunt with Bushman Safaris and owner of the land where Cecil was killed appeared in court today.
Hunter Theo Bronchorst and landowner Honest Trymore Ndlovu have been charged with poaching offences and released on bail.
The case will be heard at a court in Victoria Falls, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWM) said.
Johnny Rodrigues, chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, told The Independent anyone convicted of involvement in the illegal hunt could face up to 10 years in prison.
Officials alleged that the pair conspired to hunt Cecil and had no permit or quota allowing them to legally kill the lion.
The 13-year-old animal was found beheaded and skinned near the Hwange National Park, where he was beloved by tourists and local residents alike.
Hunters are believed to have lured him out of the safety of the park and on to private land using bait and shot him with the bow – a silent weapon increasingly used by hunters trying to evade arrest.
Dr Palmer said he has not heard from US or Zimbabwean authorities over possible poaching charges and was not aware of Cecil’s status until after he was dead.
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
“I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favourite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt,” he said in a statement.
“I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.”
According to court records seen by media in the US, Dr Palmer pleaded guilty to making false statements to the US Fish and Wildlife Service about a where he shot a black bear dead in 2006.
Despite having a hunting permit, he killed the animal outside of an authorised zone and then tried to claim it had died elsewhere, earning one year probation and fined nearly $3,000 (£1,280).Reuse content