HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) – Zimbabwe has suspended the hunting of lions, leopards and elephants in an area where a lion popular with tourists was killed, and is investigating the killing of another lion in April that may have been illegal, the country’s wildlife authority said Saturday.
In addition, bow and arrow hunts have been suspended unless they are approved by the head of the director of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, the organization said. The authority said it only received information this week about the possibly illegal killing of a lion in April. An arrest has been made in that case, officials said.
The announcement follows an international outcry stemming from an American hunter’s killing of a lion named Cecil that was allegedly was lured out of a national park. Zimbabwean authorities say the hunt was illegal and are seeking the extradition of Minnesota dentist Walter James Palmer.
Palmer is believed to have shot the lion with a bow on July 1 outside Hwange National Park after it was lured onto private land with a carcass of an animal, Zimbabwean conservationists have said. The wounded cat was later tracked down and Palmer allegedly killed it with a gun, they said. Two Zimbabweans – a professional hunter and a farm owner – have been arrested for the killing.
Palmer has said he relied on his guides to ensure the hunt was legal.
“Hunting of lions, leopards and elephants outside of Hwange National Park has been suspended with immediate effect,” Zimbabwe’s wildlife authority said in a statement. Any such hunts can only be conducted if confirmed and authorized by the head of the wildlife authority and if the hunters are accompanied by parks staff, it said.
The wildlife authority said it was necessary to tighten hunting regulations outside the park “following the killing of the iconic lion Cecil.”
Police arrested a Zimbabwean land owner in the case of a lion that was killed in April in the same area where Cecil was fatally shot, said Geoffrey Matipano, conservation director for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.
“The outrage over Cecil could have helped because people are now more aware and ready to come with information,” Matipano said, adding that they suspect it was an illegal trophy hunt.
Hwange is favored by hunters because of its teeming wildlife, Matipano said. Only two lions were illegally killed last year, he said.
Emmanuel Fundira, chairman of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, said his association could lose business as a result of the new hunting ban, but added that the measures were necessary to protect wildlife.
“Hunting brings in no less than $40 million a year,” he said.
On Saturday, a lion researcher cast doubt on a report of the shooting death of a male lion who was a companion of Cecil. The satellite collar on the lion named Jericho has been sending normal signals, indicating the lion is alive and moving around, researcher Brent Stapelkamp told The Associated Press.
A report on the Facebook page of an advocacy group called the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said Jericho was killed Saturday and that it would provide more details when they were available.
Cecil had befriended Jericho, Stapelkamp said, and together they oversaw two prides, one with three lionesses and seven cubs and another with three lionesses.