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Zimbabwe Investigates Animal Poaching After Killing of Cecil The Lion

FILE: Photographer Brent Stapelkamp, a lion researcher and part of a team that had tracked and studied Cecil the lion for nine years, darted him and attached a collar last year.

Authorities in Harare have launched a nationwide investigation into the poaching of animals following the death of Zimbabwe’s most beloved lion, Cecil, that attracted an outcry from animal rights activists worldwide.

Speaking at a meeting with the hunting community in Harare on Tuesday, Parks and Wildlife director general, Edison Chidziya, announced that the investigation was prompted by the killing of Cecil the lion in the Gwayi Conservancy in Hwange district, Matabeleland North province, by an American, Walter James Palmer, who has since claimed he had no knowledge of Cecil’s identity when he killed the big cat.

Chidziya said, “Following this poaching incident, Parks and Wildlife Management Authority in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies, is now undertaking an industry-wide investigation to try and crack down and weed out any illegal hunting activities.

"Investigations conducted so far revealed that there could be other cases involving illegal off-takes, and a couple of cases are being pursued including the case involving the illegal hunting of another lion in the Gwayi Conservancy on Railway Farm 31 owned by Mr. Headman Sibanda of Nyala Safaris which was also hunted by another foreign client using a bow and arrow. This hunt was supposed to be conducted in Kusile district. Railway Farm 31 has no lion quota for the 2015 hunting season.”

He said poaching was tarnishing the image of Zimbabwe, adding that this had serious repercussions on the country’s tourism sector and the national economy.

The killing of Cecil the lion that has attracted international interest came at a time when the country’s consumptive tourism sector is battling with trade restrictions that were imposed by certain parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species under the umbrella of the Stricter Domestic Measures and the general mood which is anti-hunting.

“Zimbabwe subscribes to the principle of sustainable utilization of its natural resources and remains committed to pursue this agenda. Our clients must have the confidence that when they come to hunt in our country they are not going to be lured like Cecil,” said Chidziya.

Louis Muller, chairman of the Professional Hunters and Guides Association, said his organization will not tolerate anyone who will violate rules and regulations of professional hunting.

The killing of Cecil the lion has been condemned by Zimbabwean authorities and animal rights activists across the globe. One of the people accused of playing a part in the killing of the country’s most famous lion is expected to appear in court Wednesday for the opening of his trial at the Hwange Magistrates’ Court.

On the other hand, authorities are in the process of seeking Palmer’s extradition from the United States so that he could be tried in Zimbabwe for killing the famous lion.