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American dentist who killed Cecil the lion illegally shot black bear at home

By Harriet Line

Published 30/07/2015

In this undated photo provided by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Cecil the lion rests in Hwange National Park, in Hwange, Zimbabwe. Two Zimbabweans arrested for illegally hunting a lion appeared in court Wednesday, July 29, 2015. The head of Zimbabwes safari association said the killing was unethical and that it couldnt even be classified as a hunt, since the lion killed by an American dentist was lured into the kill zone. (Andy Loveridge/Wildlife Conservation Research Unit via AP)
In this undated photo provided by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Cecil the lion rests in Hwange National Park, in Hwange, Zimbabwe. Two Zimbabweans arrested for illegally hunting a lion appeared in court Wednesday, July 29, 2015. The head of Zimbabwes safari association said the killing was unethical and that it couldnt even be classified as a hunt, since the lion killed by an American dentist was lured into the kill zone. (Andy Loveridge/Wildlife Conservation Research Unit via AP)
American dentist Walter James Palmer

Two Zimbabwean men who were arrested for illegally hunting a protected lion have appeared in court to face poaching charges.

Police are still looking for the American dentist Walter James Palme who allegedly paid $50,000 (£31,900) to track and shoot the animal with the two men - a professional hunter and a farm owner.

Mr Palmer, from Minnesota, said in a statement that he was unaware the lion was protected.

But the death of Cecil the lion could hit the African economy, a wildlife conservationist has warned.

Jeff Flocken said: "He was an animal that was sought out by tourists, who came there, spent money and brought revenue which is so needed in so many of these African countries - to see and take pictures of the animal. Now after this one tremendously unnecessary death that revenue can't come in any more."

He added that hunting tours were not rare: "Unfortunately it's very easy to buy a package to kill species in Africa. Typically it's not just a hunt for a lion or a rhino or an elephant, but it's a number of species in addition to the one that's the anchor." Mr Palmer, who has a criminal record related to shooting a black bear, said in a statement: "I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favourite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt.

"I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt."

US court reports show Mr Palmer pleaded guilty to making false statements to the US Fish and Wildlife service about a black bear he killed in Wisconsin.

He had a permit to hunt, but shot the bear outside the authorised zone and tried to pretend it was killed elsewhere.

The lion was being studied by researchers at Oxford University.

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