Zimbabwe intends to seek the extradition of the American dentist who killed Cecil the lion, and the process has already begun, a Cabinet minister said Friday.
“Unfortunately it was too late to apprehend the foreign poacher as he had already absconded to his country of origin,” Oppah Muchinguri, Zimbabwe’s environment, water and climate minister, told a news conference.
“We are appealing to the responsible authorities for his extradition to Zimbabwe so that he be made accountable.”
On Tuesday, American hunter Walter James Palmer issued a statement saying he relied on his guides to ensure the hunt was legal. Two Zimbabweans — a professional hunter and a farm owner — have been arrested in the lion killing that garnered worldwide condemnation.
“There has been an outcry,” Muchinguri said. “Almost 500,000 people are calling for his extradition and we need this support. We want him tried in Zimbabwe because he violated our laws.”
“I have already consulted with the authorities within the police force who are responsible for arresting the criminal. We have certain processes we have to follow. Police should take the first step to approach the prosecutor general who will approach the Americans. The processes have already started.”
Another petition in the U.S. calling for Palmer’s extradition has received over 160,000 signatures, surpassing the tally needed for a White House response.
The Cabinet minister said both Palmer and professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst violated the Parks and Wildlife Act, which controls the use of bow and arrow hunting.
He said Palmer, who reportedly paid $50,000 to hunt the lion, also violated the act through financing an illegal hunt.
The landowner violated the act because he “allowed a hunt to be conducted without a quota and necessary permit,” Muchinguri said.
Muchinguri accused Palmer of “a well-orchestrated agenda which would tarnish the image of Zimbabwe and further strain the relationship between Zimbabwe and the USA.”
Palmer is believed to have shot the lion with a bow on July 1 outside Hwange National Park, after it was lured onto private land with a carcass of an animal laid out on a car. Some 40 hours later, the wounded cat was tracked down and Palmer allegedly killed it with a gun.
Palmer, 55, is a dentist in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington. In a note to his patients, he wrote: “I understand and respect that not everyone shares the same views on hunting,” adding that he would resume his dental practice “as soon as possible.”