The American dentist who killed and beheaded a protected lion in Zimbabwe reportedly wanted to shoot and kill a elephant, too, according to a local hunter hired to help track one down.
Theo Bronkhorst, who assisted Dr. Walter Palmer in slaying Cecil, pleaded not guilty in a Zimbabwean court on Wednesday for “failing to prevent an unlawful hunt.” On Thursday, he spoke to The Telegraph, and gave a detailed account of the killing.
We set off quite late, with the sun down, and found the carcass of an elephant which we dragged and moved into the long grass and used for bait,” he said. “We then established the ‘tree blind’ [a camouflaged hide made of tree branches and grass].
Once we were established, and it was quiet, we first saw a lioness go past. And then a huge male – Cecil – came into view behind her. He was a magnificent animal.
The client then fired using a bow and arrow, and it went away into the long grass. This was about 10 pm.
He goes on to say that they didn’t see the GPS collar attached to Cecil’s neck the next morning, when they found the wounded animal and shot him once more, killing him. They “took the head and skin” and hung the collar on a tree.
Then, Bronkhorst, alleges, Palmer wanted more.
We then went back to my place near Hwange. The client asked if we would find him an elephant [whose tusk weighs] larger than 63 pounds, which is a very large elephant, but I told him I would not be able to find one so big, so the client left the next day and went to Bulawayo for the night and then flew out [to Johannesburg] midday the following day.
That’s the last anyone involved in the hunt heard from Palmer, and he hasn’t been seen since — a U.S. government agency looking into the lion’s killing reportedly can’t find the dentist.
“The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is investigating the circumstances surrounding the killing of ‘Cecil the lion.’ That investigation will take us wherever the facts lead,” said Edward Grace, the agency’s deputy chief of law enforcement, in a statement on Thursday. “At this point in time, however, multiple efforts to contact Dr. Walter Palmer have been unsuccessful. We ask that Dr. Palmer or his representative contact us immediately.”
Palmer paid $55,000 to hunt Cecil, a famous and beloved African lion, in early July. Cecil’s killing led to worldwide outrage, and once he was identified as the hunter, Palmer shut down his dental office.
People have turned that office into a makeshift memorial to the slain lion, leaving stuffed animals outside its glass doors.
In a statement issued earlier this week, Palmer blamed the local hunters he paid to help him kill the animal, saying he thought they had the proper permits.
“I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt,” Palmer said. “I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.”
Several dozen House Democrats are calling Cecil’s death a “reminder of the perils the African lion faces,” and are urging the Department of Interior to list lions as threatened endangered species.
Even Betty White, a passionate animal activist, had harsh words for the Minnesota dentist .
“You don’t want to hear some of the things I want to do to that man,” the 93-year-old actress told The Associated Press on Thursday.
“It’s such a heartbreaker. You can’t even talk about it, and to see this king of the jungle and personifying it in very way, this gorgeous creature. How can somebody do that?”