The killing of Cecil the Lion has prompted Zimbabwe’s wildlife authorities to suspend hunting of lions, leopards and elephants in western parts of the country that surround Hwange National Park, the nation’s biggest animal sanctuary.
“It has become necessary that the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority further tightens hunting regulations in all areas outside the Parks Estate,” Edson Chidziya, director general of Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority, said in an e-mailed statement on Saturday.
Zimbabwe said it will allow for exceptions if there is written authorization from the director-general of the parks and wildlife authority, and “only if accompanied by parks staff whose cost will be met by the landowner.”
The move came amid conflicting reports of whether another lion, possibly Cecil’s brother, had been killed by poachers on Saturday near Hwange.
“Jericho has been shot today,” the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said on its Facebook page. “We are absolutely heartbroken.”
Other researchers said the second lion was alive and well, and transmitting signals as usual from its GPS tracking collar, citing the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management.
“#Jericho still alive and moving!” the conservation group Bhejane Trust said on Twitter.
Cecil, 13, was killed in July outside Hwange park in northwestern Zimbabwe, where he was a star attraction among tourists. A professional hunter, Theo Bronkhorst, appeared in a court this week for helping a Minnesota dentist, Walter Palmer, kill the lion. Cecil was wounded first by a crossbow, then tracked for hours before being shot dead with a gun, at which point he was skinned and beheaded.
Zimbabwe requested the extradition of Palmer to face poaching charges, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it’s investigating the incident.
Zimbabwe has 2,000 lions and is allowing 70 to be hunted this year, according to the country’s parks authority.
“The suspension is not clear. Is it for a month, or the rest of the season?” Emmanuel Fundira, chairman of Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, told reporters at a news conference. “It will negatively affect the season because of the cancellations.”
Cecil’s death has sparked global outrage. Animal-rights groups have called for a ban on trophy hunting, and Palmer has receiving death threats through social media and has closed his dental practice, at least temporarily.
Palmer said in a statement to the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper this week that he thought the hunt was legal and he didn’t know Cecil was wearing an electronic collar as part of an Oxford University research project. Palmer said he would cooperate with the U.S. and Zimbabwean authorities.
A petition asking the Obama administration to extradite Palmer to Zimbabwe in connection with the lion’s death gained more than 144,000 signatures in two days. The White House will respond to the petition, spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday.