Zimbabwe court drops charges against hunter in Cecil the lion death

HARARE, Zimbabwe, A high court in Zimbabwe dropped charges against a professional hunter who led an expedition that killed a beloved lion named Cecil, sparking international outrage of the death of the big cat and a call for a ban of trophy hunting.

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The court ruled the charges against Theo Bronkhorst, including failing to prevent an illegal hunt, were “too vague to enable him to mount a proper defense.” Bronkhorst led the expedition that included Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer, who paid some $50,000 to shoot the animal and skin it. Officials said Cecil was lured from Zimbabwe’s largest game reserve, Hwange National Park, where it is illegal to shoot animals, and killed July 1, 2015.

Bronkhorst’s attorney, Perpetua Dube, said the high court judge decided “the charges as they were brought at that time were not properly constituted.”

“He’s agreed with us on that point. And that is all there is to it,” she said. “It’s not an acquittal, so it doesn’t have that effect.”

Zimbabwe officials originally said they would charge Palmer but later dropped the plan.

By Amy R. Connolly