The trial of the professional Zimbabwean hunter and safari tour operator who led the expedition that killed Cecil the lion was postponed on Wednesday after a request from his lawyer, reported The New York Times.
Theo Bronkhorst, who has been charged with failing to prevent an illegal hunt, has vehemently denied any wrongdoing in the killing of Cecil, the beloved 13-year-old lion that was hailed as a popular tourist attraction. He has already pleaded not guilty, reported NBC News.
Now, Mr. Bronkhorst’s trial will not resume until Sept. 28, as his attorney told the court he needed more time to prepare, according to the Times. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years behind bars.
“I think it’s frivolous and I think it’s wrong,” he told reporters outside court when asked about the charges against him, according to The Associated Press.
Cecil was killed in early July by an American dentist, Dr. Walter J. Palmer, who has also been the subject of “unprecedented global backlash,” reported The Christian Science Monitor.
Dr. Palmer, who has faced death threats from the public, has since been forced into hiding. Overnight on Monday, his home was vandalized, according to The Orlando Sentinel. Zimbabwean authorities have also been seeking his extradition from the United States.
Officials in Zimbabwe say he broke the country’s hunting rules when he used prohibited weapons to kill Cecil. “The cat was lured out of his protected habitat and shot – first with an arrow, then with a gun. Mr. Palmer then beheaded Cecil, the subject of many tourists’ and researchers’ videos, to mount the head as a trophy,” wrote LaFranchi.
Late on Tuesday, an unexpected party joined those condemning Cecil’s killing: The national organization in charge of hunting, according to NBC.
"We believe that the people who are the culprits lured Cecil outside the national park by … dragging that bait to an area where he was then murdered,” said Emmanuel Fundira, head of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe. "And I say 'murdered,' because that was not hunting.”