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Zimbabwe lifted its ban on hunting lions, leopards and elephants less than 10 days after news of the killing of Cecil the lion caused an international outcry, media reports said.

Artist J. Morello, after completing a painting of Cecil the Lion, works on another painting on a store front in New York. © Don Emmert, AFP/Getty Images
Artist J. Morello, after completing a painting of Cecil the Lion, works on another painting on a storefront in New York. © Don Emmert, AFP/Getty Images

Zimbabwe officials announced the ban in areas outside of Hwange at the beginning of August after the big cat was killed by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer in the Hwange National Park a month before.

South African website News24 and other media said the nationwide ban was lifted Monday, but a ban is still in force in a limited area including on the farm where Cecil was killed and on another farm where a second lion was hunted.

“We are pleased to inform you that, following some useful discussions between operators and the relevant Zimbabwean authorities, the suspension has now been uplifted throughout the country,” a leaked statement from the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association said, according to News24.

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority wasn’t immediately available for comment.

In his first comments about the incident on Monday, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe said Zimbabweans failed in their responsibility to protect Cecil, the Associated Press reported. “He is dead but yours to protect, and you failed to protect him,” he said in a speech to mark Heroes’ Day; a national holiday to honour fighters who died in the war to end white minority rule.

“There are vandals who come from all over. Some may be just ordinary visitors, but there are others who want to vandalise, to irregularly and illegally acquire part of those resources,” Mugabe said, according to the AP.

“All this wildlife is yours, we should protect them. They should not be shot by a gun; it’s a sin. Or an arrow. I was stopped from killing animals with an arrow when I was seven or eight years old. I was told: These are God’s creatures.”

Cecil, one of Zimbabwe's most famous lions, rests in the wild as the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority takes a photo. Uproar followed his death at the hands of Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer on July 6. © Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority via European Pressphoto Agency
Cecil, one of Zimbabwe’s most famous lions, rests in the wild. Uproar followed his death at the hands of Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer on July 6. © Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority via European Pressphoto Agency

Palmer allegedly paid about US$50,000 to track and kill 13-year-old Cecil, who was part of an Oxford University study. Zimbabwe’s environment minister has called for Palmer, who says he thought the hunt was legal, to be extradited.

Theo Bronkhorst, a professional hunter who acted as Palmer’s guide, appeared in a court in the town of Hwange last week facing charges of failing to prevent an unlawful hunt. Bronkhorst told reporters he believed he had the right permits and did not break the law. He faces up to 15 years in jail if convicted.

Meanwhile, Lion Lager, a popular brand of beer in Zimbabwe, is using Cecil in its new advertising campaign. The brand placed ads in local papers last week reading: “Our pride lives on — A tribute to Cecil the Lion,” according to Nehanda Radio. A TV commercial for Lion Lager starts with a voice saying: “We’re all sad that Cecil the lion has gone. But his roar still lives on.” The advert then shows a man drinking beer in a bar and then roaring like a lion.

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