Cecil's cubs are likely to survive under Cecil's brother Jericho, scientist says
Walter Palmer's representative contacts U.S. game officials after they made a public appeal
U.S. State Department says it can't comment on extradition matters
As outrage grows over the killing of Cecil the lion, Zimbabwe has called on the United States to extradite the American dentist who shot the prized big cat.
Zimbabwe has started extradition proceedings and hopes the United States will cooperate, said Oppah Muchinguri, the African nation’s environment minister.
Walter Palmer “had a well-orchestrated agenda which would tarnish the image of Zimbabwe and further strain the relationship between Zimbabwe and the U.S., Muchinguri said.
Palmer, his professional hunter guide, and the owner of the land where the hunt took place are accused of an illegal hunt under the country’s Parks and Wildlife Act, Muchinguri said in a statement.
Palmer is accused of financing an illegal hunt, and he and the professional hunter are also accused of illegally using a crossbow “to conceal the illegal hunt” so they wouldn’t alert rangers on patrol, she said.
The landowner allegedly allowed the hunt to be conducted without a lion quota and without the necessary permit, Muchinguri said.
“The professional hunter, client and land owner were therefore all engaged in poaching of the lion,” she said.
She added, “This must be condemned in the strongest possible terms by all genuine, animal-loving conservationists who believe in sustainable utilization of natural resources.”
Palmer, from Minnesota, has said he relied on the expertise of local guides “to ensure a legal hunt.”
“I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt,” Palmer said in a statement Tuesday.
He allegedly paid $50,000 in early July to hunt the lion with a crossbow near Hwange National Park in western Zimbabwe.
Cecil – a major tourist draw at Hwange – was lured out of the park sanctuary with a dead animal on top of a vehicle, according to the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force.
The 13-year-old lion, recognizable by the black streaks in his mane, suffered a slow death, the conservation group said.
A Palmer representative contacts U.S. game officials
Palmer’s whereabouts are publicly unknown amid the uproar over the hunt, though his representative contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday, the agency said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the circumstances of the lion’s death.
“The service’s investigation is ongoing and appreciates that Dr. Palmer’s representative voluntarily reached out to the service,” the agency said, offering no detail about the correspondence.
This week, the Fish and Wildlife Service made a public appeal to Palmer, asking him to contact the agency: “That investigation will take us wherever the facts lead. At this point in time, however, multiple efforts to contact Dr. Walter Palmer have been unsuccessful,” said Edward Grace, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s deputy chief of law enforcement. “We ask that Dr. Palmer or his representative contact us immediately.”
Minister: Taking this issue seriously
Meanwhile, a White House petition requesting that Palmer be extradited to Zimbabwe may receive a response from the Obama administration.
The petition needed to receive 100,000 signatures by August 27 to get a response. It had more than 175,000 signatures by Friday afternoon.
Muchinguri said that there was also much outcry in Zimbabwe and that nearly 500,000 people via Facebook had called for Palmer’s extradition.
“We are taking this issue seriously,” she said, adding that Palmer should be tried in Zimbabwe.
Hundreds of protesters have gathered this week outside Palmer’s dental practice in Bloomington, Minnesota, CNN affiliate WCCO-TV in Minneapolis reported.
In an email obtained by WCCO, Palmer wrote a letter to his patients, saying, “I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion. That was never my intention.”
Feds mum on extradition request
The U.S. State Department said that as a matter of policy, it would not comment on specific extradition requests.