Zimbabwe restricts hunting of big cats after Cecil’s killing

Harare, Aug 2 (IANS/EFE) Zimbabwe is suspending the hunting of lions, leopards and elephants outside the Hwange National Park following the killing of Cecil, the country’s most famous lion, officials said.

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) is also investigating the possible illegal hunting of another lion, a day after Cecil was killed in July, government officials and conservationists said.

“Hunting of lions, leopards and elephants outside of the Hwange National Park has been suspended with immediate effect,” ZPWMA director Edson Chidziya said on Saturday.

“Any such hunts can only be conducted if confirmed and authorized by the head of the wildlife authority and if the hunters are accompanied by parks staff.”

American dentist Walter James Palmer last week admitted that he killed Cecil.

“Following the killing of iconic lion Cecil outside the Hwange National Park on July 1, it is necessary for the ZPWMA to toughen regulations in all areas outside national parks,” Chidziya said.

Zimbabwe allows hunting only on private game reserves and regulates safaris, but the taking of animals is not allowed in national parks.

Hunts with bows and arrows have also been suspended and require the ZPWMA director’s authorisation.

Conservation agencies have launched a campaign with other government departments to stop poaching.

Officials are investigating the illegal killing of another lion on July 2, a day after Cecil was lured out of the Hwange National Park and shot with a crossbow, at the hands of another hunter, whose nationality has not been revealed.

Contrary to media reports on Saturday, the other lion was not Cecil’s brother Jericho, who is still alive, the Bhejane Trust said.

Zimbabwean officials have not confirmed that a second lion was killed, but they said a suspect was arrested in connection with a second illegal hunting case.

“Police are investigating all the cases reported and have arrested another suspect, headman Sibanda, for allegedly violating the hunting regulations,” Chidziya said.

Palmer said he went after Cecil on the assumption that the hunt was legal and the guides had obtained all the necessary permits.

“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,” Palmer, who lives in Minnesota, said in a statement.

The killing of the 13-year-old lion has sparked outrage around the world, with people taking to social media to condemn Palmer’s actions.

Palmer participated in a night hunt at the Hwange National Park, in the western part of the country, the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) said.

Cecil, a rare black-maned lion, was lured out of the park to a property where it would technically not be illegal to hunt him.

The big cat was wearing a collar and was being monitored as part of an Oxford University lion conservation study.

Cecil was skinned and beheaded, the non-governmental ZCTF said, adding that the hunters tried to destroy the GPS collar that Cecil was wearing.

Professional guide Theo Bronkhorst, who led the hunt, and landowner Honest Ndlovu, onto whose property Cecil was lured, have been charged in connection with the lion’s killing, officials said.

Zimbabwe has called on the United States to extradite Palmer.

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