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Dentist who shot Cecil didn't know the lion was a "known, local favourite"

Two men are due in court on poaching charges related to the lion’s death.

Image: Paula French via AP

TWO MEN ARE due to appear in a Zimbabwean court on poaching charges after a wealthy American dentist killed a beloved lion just outside a national park, sparking criticism around the world.

Cecil the lion, a popular attraction among international visitors to Hwange National Park, was lured beyond the reserve’s boundaries by bait and killed earlier this month.

The hunter was identified as Walter Palmer, a dentist and experienced trophy hunter from Minnesota, who allegedly paid $50,000 for the hunt.

11817262_478625112305491_4778486743951846488_n Walt Palmer, left and another lion. Source: Facebook

Professional Zimbabwean hunter Theo Bronkhorst and local landowner Honest Ndlovu will appear in court in Hwange town on Wednesday to face poaching charges.

The two were seen at the court venue waiting for the hearing.

A family friend said that Bronkhorst believed he had acted legally during the hunt and was shocked to find that the lion was wearing a collar.

“He is a very professional, very honest conservationist,” Ian Ferguson told AFP.

This has just about destroyed the family, his wife has virtually had a nervous breakdown.

“The whole thing was perfectly legal. When they found the lion had a collar… he went and reported to the national parks immediately.

This was just a terrible, very unfortunate act.

Zimbabwe Lion Killed File photo of Cecil. Source: Paula French via AP

Palmer issued a statement yesterday that suggested he had left Zimbabwe weeks ago.

“I have not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the US about this situation, but will assist them in any inquiries they may have,” he said, without revealing his whereabouts.

Palmer, who shot Cecil with a powerful bow and arrow, said he had “relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt”.

“I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practise responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion,” he said.

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.

Amid a fierce outpouring of anger, radical US animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) called for Palmer to be hanged.

“He needs to be extradited, charged, and, preferably, hanged,” Ingrid Newkirk, president of Peta US, said in a statement.

Cecil, aged about 13, was said by safari operators to be an “iconic” animal who was recognised by many visitors to Hwange due to his distinctive black mane.

pastedimage-80490 Palmer and a white rhino - a world record for a kill with a bow.

The tracking collar was part of a University of Oxford research programme.

Palmer is well-known in US hunting circles as an expert shot with his bow and arrow, and has travelled across the world in pursuit of leopards, buffalo, rhino, elk and other large mammals.

© AFP, 2015

Read: American dentist who ‘paid $50,000 to kill a lion with a crossbow’ wanted by police >

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