People, Environment

Zimbabwe Seeking US Dentist Accused of Poaching

Zimbabwe Seeking US Dentist Accused of PoachingZimbabwe Seeking US Dentist Accused of Poaching

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, CNN reported.

Walter Palmer “had a well-orchestrated agenda which would tarnish the image of Zimbabwe and further strain the relationship between Zimbabwe and the USA”, Muchinguri said in a statement.

  Illegal Hunt

Muchinguri noted that 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.

“Specifically, 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 would not alert rangers on patrol,” she said.

“The landowner allegedly allowed the hunt to be conducted without a lion quota and without the necessary permit. The professional hunter, client and land owner were therefore all engaged in poaching of the lion.”

Muchinguri added that 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 attraction 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.

  Palmer Rep. Contacts US Officials

Palmer’s whereabouts remain unknown amid the uproar over the hunt.

His representative has contacted the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which is investigating the circumstances of the lion’s death, the agency said Friday on Twitter.

“Late yesterday we were voluntarily contacted by a rep of Dr. Palmer. We appreciate the cooperation; investigation is ongoing,” the tweet said Friday.

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.”

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.