Sitting in his car outside the Hwange magistrates court in western Zimbabwe while awaiting his hearing, Theo Bronkhorst told reporters this past week that the hunt that led to the lion's death was legally permissible, according to CBS News.
If he's convicted, Bronkhorst faces up to 10 years in jail for failing to prevent an unlawful hunt, but the tearful hunter says the Cecil's slaying has already had devastating consequences. In July, the national parks agency canceled Bronkhorst's license, according to the Guardian.
"Well, it's destroyed us," Bronkhorst - who co-owns Bushman Safaris with his wife - told CBS. "It's destroyed the family, my business."You know, we employ a lot of people, and they are on half-time now. I guess each family is supporting six or more dependents."
The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said in July that Cecil was lured out of the national park and shot with a compound bow before being finished off with a rifle. His slaying provoked international outrage and intensified calls for bringing an end to trophy hunting in Africa.
As Bronkhorst's court battle continues, authorities in Zimbabwe have decided not to charge Walter Palmer, the American dentist who actually slayed the 13-year-old black-maned lion.
Palmer, who was temporarily forced underground following threats against his home and business, has said he was under the impression the hunt was legal and relied on the expertise of his local guides. Government officials agree, saying Palmer did nothing wrong.
"We approached the police and then the prosecutor general, and it turned out that Palmer came to Zimbabwe because all the papers were in order," said Zimbabwean Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, according to Agence France-Presse.
"The documents were there," she added. "The problem now remains internal. . . . We are now going to review how we issue hunting quotas."
After the initial outrage subsided, Palmer returned to his Bloomington, Minnesota, dental practice in September.
"I'm a health professional," Palmer told the Associated Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune at the time. "I need to get back to my staff and my patients, and they want me back. That's why I'm back."
Brent Staplekamp, who placed a tracking collar on Cecil as part of an Oxford University study, told CBS that he was surprised charges against Palmer were dropped.
"I really thought this was going to be an example to other people who have done this before or who would do it in the future, so very disappointed that we are not going to see justice," he said.
Bronkhorst's lawyer, Givemore Muvhiringi, told the Guardian that if the charges against Palmer were dropped, his client must be innocent, too. He suggested that the state's decision to prosecute one person and not another is arbitrary.
Speaking to reporters outside the court this week, Bronkhorst said many lions with tracking collars are shot each year, including as many as five this year alone. He also denied that the hunting party had lured Cecil outside the national park using bait.
"Absolute nonsense, the animal was already on an elephant carcass," he said. "We didn't even have to lure him, he was there. He was already on an elephant carcass that was lying there."
On Thursday, the Guardian reported, the magistrates court in Hwange postponed Bronkhorst's case for a third time. He is scheduled to appear in court once again on October, 20.
Asked by reporters whether he believed in his innocence, Bronkhorst struck a confident tone.
"Absolutely," he said, according to the Guardian. "I believe our permits were in order . . . and I still think we are gonna be vindicated."
© 2015 The Washington Post
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