The man accused of helping American dentist Walter Palmer kill Cecil the Lion told NBC News that he feel he’s done nothing wrong.
Theo Bronkhorst, a 55-year-old professional Zimbabwean hunter, allegedly was paid $50,000 by Palmer to lure the lion out of the wildlife reserve so Palmer could shoot and kill the animal.
As reported by the Associated Press, Bronkhorst was charged with failing to prevent an illegal hunting expedition, and pled not guilty last week. He was released on a $1,000 bail and will return to court next Wednesday.
Bronkhorst insists that the hunting expedition was conducted legally.
“I do not feel I have done anything wrong. This has been a very stressful time for me and my family. We have been pulled into something we are not happy with.”
Last week, Oppah Muchinguri, a government minister from Zimbabwe, told officials that the country was seeking extradition for Palmer “so that he can be held accountable for his illegal action.”
Thanking the international community for their support to bring justice to the killer of our beloved lion Cecil #justice4Cecil— Oppah Muchinguri (@OppahMuchinguri) July 31, 2015
Honest Ndlovu, the landowner, was also accused of assisting Palmer in hunting and killing Cecil the Lion. He has not been charged as of yet. Park officials say that he is scheduled to testify for the state and will most likely be charged later.
Bronkhorst told AFP that he and Palmer obtained multiple permits for killing a lion using a bow and arrow.
“I don’t believe I failed in any duties at all, I was engaged by a client to do a hunt for him and we shot an old male lion that I believed was past his breeding age.”
A trophy picture was also taken with slain Cecil the Lion.
“That was taken with the client’s camera, so I don’t have access to it, and quite frankly I would never ever give it out to anybody if I had it.”
Killing a lion is punishable by a mandatory fine of $20,000 and up to 10 years in prison.
Bronkhorst is confident that he will not be found guilty of the charges, telling AFP: “I don’t foresee any jail sentence at all, I think it’s been blown out of proportion by social media and I think it’s been a deliberate ploy to ban all hunting and especially lion hunting in Zimbabwe.”
He insists that he didn’t know Cecil the Lion was an icon, and sincerely regrets the killing.
“It has probably changed my family’s life, my business, forever… We have had many, many death threats.”
Bronkhorst says he and Palmer have not had any contact since the killing of Cecil the Lion has triggered a worldwide rage at their actions.