Zim lifts ban on lion hunts

Harare - Zimbabwe has lifted a hastily-imposed countrywide ban on lion, leopard and elephant hunting in the wake of Cecil the lion's death,  though it remains in force in a limited area, insiders and a hunters' group say.

The ban was imposed on August 2 in the wake of global outrage over the killing of Cecil by a US dentist on an illegal hunt just outside Hwange National Park in western Zimbabwe.

A statement from the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association, leaked this weekend, reads: "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", though there are some exceptions.

Lion-hunting is still banned in the Antoinette farm that Cecil was killed in in early July, another farm where a second lion was recently illegally hunted, and in two other areas.

Significantly, the Zimbabwe authorities also appear to have banned all hunting of "collared iconic animals", the statement says.

Cecil was wearing a collar when he was killed, and was the fourth or fifth collared lion in Hwange to be killed so far this year, according to conservationists. A second lion killed in July - whose death is also being investigated by the authorities - was not collared.

The authorities "have reacted very quickly, very strongly, and they've put a total ban on any hunting in Antoinette and Farm 32 - the two areas where the lions were shot," a conservationist from the Hwange area said.

"I think anyone who crosses the line now will be nailed," the conservationist added.

Hunting is generally banned in all of Zimbabwe's state-owned parks although it has been allowed in the case of so-called "ration-hunting", when game was killed to feed rangers and other government workers or for national events. Sources say the authorities may now have banned this practice.

Zimbabwean hunting officials were not available for comment.

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