U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials are trying to track down Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who admitted killing Cecil the lion during a hunt in Zimbabwe. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Twitter
HARARE, Zimbabwe, July 31 (UPI) -- Wildlife officials in Zimbabwe on Friday called on the United States to extradite a Minnesota dentist responsible for killing a popular lion whose death has prompted worldwide criticism.
Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri issued a statement seeking the extradition of Walter Palmer, a Bloomington, Minn., dentist, "so that he be made accountable for his illegal actions."
Muchinguri accused Palmer and his guides of violating national and international poaching laws when they allegedly lured 13-year-old Cecil the lion off his protected habitat in Hwange National Park and killed him July 1. Palmer issued a statement earlier in the week saying he paid professional guides for a private safari to stalk Cecil and kill him, but he believed the hunt to be legal.
The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said Theo Bronchorst, a professional hunter with Bushman Safaris, faces criminal charges for his alleged involvement in Cecil's shooting because he was not allocated a lion on his hunting quota for the year. Honest Trymore Ndlovu, the landowner where Cecil was killed, was also being accused of colluding with the hunters.
In his statement Tuesday, Palmer said he would cooperate with both U.S. and Zimbabwe officials in their investigations into Cecil's death. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday said a representative for Palmer contacted officials after the department issued statements saying they had been unable to get in touch with him.
"Late yesterday we were voluntarily contacted by a rep. of Dr. Palmer," the FWS said in a tweet. "We appreciate the cooperation, investigation is ongoing."
It's unclear if Palmer violated any U.S. laws with regard to Cecil's killing. In Zimbabwe, Muchinguri said Palmer violated the Parks and Wildlife Act by allegedly using a bow and arrow for hunting and by paying for an illegal hunt. Bronchorst is accused of violating a section of the act that regulates the manner in which trophy hunts are conducted, and Ndlovu is accused of allowing hunting on private land without the necessary permit.
"From investigations carried out so far it shows that the whole poaching event was properly orchestrated and well financed to make sure that it succeeds," Muchinguri said. "The professional hunter, client and land owner were therefore all engaged in poaching of the lion."