American hunter Walter James Palmer has also been accused by wildlife officials of killing Cecil without a permit. Palmer, who has left Zimbabwe, says he killed the lion on July 1 but believed it was a legal hunt.

Local hunter Theo Bronkhorst and Honest Ndlovu, a private game park owner, who assisted Palmer, attended at the court in Hwange, 800 km (500 miles) west of Harare. Cecil was fitted with a GPS collar for a research project by scientists from Oxford University and was one of the oldest and most famous in Zimbabwe.

Wildlife officials say Cecil was lured out of Hwange National Park using a bait and was shot by with a bow and arrow by Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota who has since received a torrent of abuse on social media. Palmer said he had not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or the United States and would assist in any inquiries.

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