SOME DEVELOPMENTS IN THE ZIMBABWEAN LION CASE
October 2015, Volume 13-5

The case against professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst, who is out on $1,000 bail, should be thrown out of court, his lawyers have argued. Bronkhorst denies any wrongdoing, insisting that he had obtained all the permits required to kill an ageing lion that was outside national park boundaries. His lawyer, Perpetua Dube, told a court in the north-western town of Hwange: “The charge is not clear and the circumstances do not constitute a chargeable offence.” Prosecutor Namatirai Ngwasha said: “We need time to research and make an informed response to the defense’s application,” AFP reported. Regional magistrate Dambudzo Malunga accepted the defense’s court application and remanded the case until 15 October, when she would decide whether Bronkhorst’s trial should go ahead. The owner of the land on which Cecil was killed was listed among five state witnesses in the trial after initially being charged with allowing an illegal hunt.

Bronkhorst was again arrested in September on separate charges of planning to smuggle 29 sable antelopes into South Africa. He was also bailed in that case too, which will be heard separately.

Craig Packer, known world-wide as lion expert, said in an interview with John Vidal of the Guardian (UK) published on October 4 “Trophy hunting is not inherently damaging to lion populations, provided the hunters take care to let the males mature and wait to harvest them after their cubs are safely reared. The [American] dentist [Walter Palmer] was unlucky and not altogether to blame.”

Packer continued saying ““Trophy hunters are no angels but they actually control four times as much lion habitat in Africa than is protected in national parks; and 80% of the world’s lions left in the world are in the hunters’ hands. Clients like the dentist are just tourists. They believe whatever they are told. It’s extremely unlikely that [the dentist] knew anything about that particular lion or even how close he was to the national park when he shot it. It’s common practice in Zimbabwe for hunting operators to draw lions out of the parks so their clients can shoot them.”

Wilbur Smith the South African author, who has sold more than 130 million books worldwide, spoke out in support of hunting talking to Daily Mail, UK. He said he believes hunting is the ‘right thing to do’ to aid conservation. Mr. Smith told The Observer: ‘Poor Cecil the lion was 18 years old, losing his teeth and going downhill fast. The American dentist probably did his offspring and his pride a favor.’ The author has often featured big game hunts in his novels, of which he has written more than 36, and once said that the ‘the most effective way to kill any animal is for it to die before it even knows you are there.’ He made his comments regarding Cecil the lion during a promotional tour of his latest book, “Golden Lion”.

David J. Hayes, a distinguished visiting lecturer in law at Stanford Law School, has urged the U.S. government to take action. He said in the Stanford Daily of September 29 that “proper wildlife hunting can support conservation and African economies, but stricter regulation is needed. That regulation could come in the form of a more rigorous review of hunting practices, especially for animal populations that are under stress from poaching, loss of habitat and other challenges.”

And finally, Christopher Clark, a British freelance writer based in Cape Town wrote on September 29th in a Huffington Pot Blog:

“Now that the deafening noise around the tragic death of Cecil the Lion has finally subsided, it’s time for some more reasoned debate. Please try to leave your emotions at the door. They are not helping anyone, least of all the wildlife that many of you claim to care so much about. What an insane racket you all made. Let’s reflect a little:

Many of you around the world who apparently abhor the killing of any animal called for the violent death of all trophy hunters. TV presenters broke down in tears, while normally every night they read out the deaths of thousands of people without flinching. Strangely, many of you didn’t seem to have any issue with this. Then some model with big eyebrows who generally doesn’t seem to care much about anything except cocaine and clubbing held a benefit event for lion conservation. Ed Sheeran got a big lion tattoo. And suddenly, all of you were lion experts.

… You need to see that mass bans and boycotts might actually, in some instances at least, cause more damage than good. Let’s take Namibia for example, where local Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, went so far as to say that airlines banning the transport of wildlife trophies would be ‘the end of conservation’ for the country.

… There are certainly some convincing arguments for the positive conservation impact that trophy hunting can have, in theory at least. … Whatever we might think about the hunters, hunting can be a force for good – both for wildlife and for African people – when and where it is properly, ethically and transparently managed and administered, but that too often the opposite occurs and the industry becomes hampered by bad administration, bad ethics and corruption.”

Compiled by Gerhard R Damm