South African President Jacob Zuma has called Zimbabwean lion Cecil's killing "just an incident" brushing aside the worldwide outcry.

Speaking at a press briefing in Pretoria, President Zuma condoned American hunter Walter Palmer who hunted down Cecil.

"The hunter did not know Cecil was so popular, he just saw a lion and killed a lion," said Zuma, reported AFP News.

"My feeling is that the fellow did not know."

Cecil – the much adored lion of Zimbabwe was hunted down on 1 July after being lured from the Hwange National Park, a Zimbabwean nature reserve, by 55-year-old US dentist and trophy hunter Palmer.

Cecil was not only a famous attraction at the park but also part of a University of Oxford research project.

Palmer reportedly paid some £35,000 ($55,000) to hunt down the lion.

Worldwide protests and calls for Palmer to be extradited resulted in Zimbabwe enforcing stricter hunting restrictions, however a ban on big game hunting was lifted on 10 August much to the disappointment of animal rights activists.

Zuma defended the legislation and said: "I think Zimbabwe has laws about hunting and everything, I don't think it's a matter we could really debate that much."

Meanwhile, Palmer's guide, Theo Bronkhorst, has been bailed out for £642 ($1,000) till a court trial on 28 September for organising the hunt.