A high court in Zimbabwe has dropped charges against the professional hunting guide who helped Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer track and kill Cecil the lion in 2015.
Theodore Bronkhorst had been charged with failing to prevent an illegal hunt after luring the prized lion out of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park for Palmer, but on Thursday a judge ruled that the expedition leader didn’t do anything wrong.
“The high court has said the charges were flawed and, therefore, should be set aside,” a lawyer for Bronkhorst told Agence France-Presse.
Cecil was popular with tourists and was wearing a GPS collar as part of an Oxford University conservation project when Palmer shot him with a bow and arrow during a nighttime hunt. The death of the 13-year-old lion with his trademark black mane provoked international outrage over big-game hunting, and Palmer was vilified in protests and in social media.
The tumult forced Palmer to close his Bloomington dental practice for several weeks in 2015. Palmer, 56, lives in Eden Prairie and is an accomplished big-game hunter whose trophies include an elephant, polar bear and rhinoceros.
After tough talk about extraditing Palmer from the United States, Zimbabwe authorities ultimately decided not to charge Palmer in Cecil’s death, saying the paperwork for the hunt appeared to have been in order.
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife investigation into the hunt is ongoing, an agency spokesman said Friday.
Palmer couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Lawyer Joe Friedberg, who counseled Palmer during the outcry over the hunt, said Friday that the decision to dismiss charges against Bronkhorst came as no surprise.
“Walter was completely within his rights to shoot that lion. The guide was within his rights and duties to point out the lion,” Friedberg said.
A second man in Zimbabwe was also charged last year in relation to the hunt, Honest Trymore Ndlovu, who owned the land where Cecil was killed. The status of Ndlovu’s case wasn’t clear Friday.