HARARE • The American dentist who killed Cecil the lion a month ago in Zimbabwe had paid for an illegal hunt and should be extradited to the southern African nation to face justice, Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri said yesterday.
In a news conference, Ms Muchinguri referred to 55-year-old Walter Palmer as a "foreign poacher" and said she understood the Prosecutor-General had started the process to have him extradited from the United States.
"We are appealing to the responsible authorities for his extradition to Zimbabwe so that he can be held accountable for his illegal action," she said.
Dr Palmer has admitted killing the 13-year-old predator, a favourite with foreign tourists and the subject of an Oxford University study, but said he had hired professional guides and believed all the necessary hunting permits were in order.
Ms Muchinguri also said Dr Palmer's use of a bow and arrow to kill the lion, which is said to have been lured out of Hwange National Park with bait before being shot, was in contravention of Zimbabwean hunting regulations.
"It was too late to apprehend the foreign poacher because he had already absconded to his country of origin," Ms Muchinguri added.
The killing has sparked social media outrage against Dr Palmer in the US. The White House said on Thursday it would review a public petition of more than 100,000 signatures to have him extradited.
The US government, meanwhile, has opened its own probe into the hunt. "The US Fish & Wildlife Service is investigating the circumstances surrounding the killing of Cecil the lion," said Mr Edward Grace, its deputy chief of law enforcement.
The professional Zimbabwean hunter who organised the hunt has been charged in Zimbabwe with "failing to prevent an illegal hunt". But a court hearing for the landowner accused of allowing the hunt was delayed on Thursday.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE