Hunters in court over Cecil the lion's death

Jul 29, 2015 1:29 PM by News Staff

JOHANNESBURG -- Two local hunters were in court in Zimbabwe on Wednesday to face charges of poaching after a well-known and beloved local lion named Cecil was killed in an illegal game hunt.

CBS News correspondent Debora Patta reports Cecil, the iconic and rare black-maned lion, was a star-attraction of Hwange National Park. This week, he was found beheaded and skinned.

The Chairman of Zimbabwe's Conservation Task Force, Johnny Rodrigues, told Patta that he was appalled. "It's the manner that, the way it was done," Rodrigues said. "To lure the lion out of the park, scent and bait the area, and then come in with a spotlight and shoot him with a bow and arrow. I mean, it's crazy really. It's inhumane."

The hunters then took 40 hours to find Cecil and finish him off.

And the price to fire the lethal bullet: $55,000 paid by a Minnesota dentist named Walter Palmer.

A seasoned big game hunter, Palmer would travel the world in pursuit of animal trophies. But back in his home town on Tuesday, he defended his actions.

"I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt," Palmer said in a written statement.

But Brent Stapelkamp, who was part of an Oxford University scientific team that studied Cecil for seven years, said that hunters would have known what they were doing.

"If you are going to come to a country like Zimbabwe and you're going to pay that sort of money, you should have done your homework," Stapelkamp told CBS News. "You should know which areas you're going to be hunting . On their hunting forums it would have been mentioned that there was no lion quota in Ngwaya."

A court spokesperson said the two local hunters are out on $1,000 bail. The date for their next court appearance is August 5.


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