Speaking for the first time since being charged with illegal hunting, professional hunter, hired gun of Walter Palmer, Theo Bronkhorst has insisted that the hunting party had never meant to take down a research animal, nor for that matter had they ever set about looking to hunt down Cecil the lion outside of park grounds.
Nevertheless Bronkhorst does admit after taking down the big lion, the Minnesota dentist wanted to next take down a ‘very large elephant.’
Adding via the telegraph: ‘I told him I would not be able to find one so big, so the client left the next day.’
In the exclusive the hired professional hunter insists that they hadn’t set out to lure Cecil out ofHwange National Park and on to a farm where Cecil the lion was first lured with the carcass of an elephant before shot at with a crossbow at the hands of Walter Palmer.
Told the Bronkhorst: ‘At the last minute, I had to divert from a concession [hunting area] about eight miles away,’
Bronkhorst said they went hunting with his son, Zane, and a scout sent by farm owner Honest Ndlovu.
‘We set off quite late, with the sun down, and found the carcass of an elephant which we dragged and moved into the long grass and used for bait,’ he said.
The bait would eventually lure in Cecil the iconic Zimbabwe lion.
Recalls Bronkhorst: ‘He was a magnificent animal,’
‘The client then fired using a bow and arrow, and it went away into the long grass. This was about 10 p.m.’
From there the hunter explains that the party ‘weren’t entirely sure‘ Cecil had been taken down, choosing to return the next morning to search for him.
We found it and it was wounded, and the client then shot it, with his bow and arrow, and killed it,’ Bronkhorst explained.
The hunting party was ‘devastated’ to discover that Cecil was wearing a GPS collar, the hunter insisted.
But instead of turning it into authorities, Bronkhorst said, he ‘panicked,’ taking the tracking device off and putting it in a tree.
A tracking device which would eventually lead to researchers coming across Cecil’s skinned carcass with missing head.
They kept Cecil’s head and skin because Palmer had already ponied up $50,000 to shoot a lion and earn his trophy, he added.
‘I went to Parks and reported what had happened,’ the guide reiterated. ‘I wish I had taken the collar.’
Bronkhorst, charged with conducting an illegal hunt, was released Wednesday on $1,000 bail. He insisted he had no idea Cecil was a protected lion.
Meanwhile, Palmer is still hiding out — and even ducking calls from federal agents.
‘At this point in time…multiple efforts to contact Dr. Walter Palmer have been unsuccessful,’ said Edward Grace, deputy Chief of law enforcement at US Fish and Wildlife Service.