Zimbabwe officials want Walter Palmer extradited so they can put him on trial for his illegal hunt of Cecil the Lion. A Zimbabwean official said he is viewed as a foreign poacher and they have started the extradition process. Cecil the Lion was a favorite of Hwange national park and was collared as part of a research program with Oxford University. Cecil was killed after being lured away from the safe haven of Hwange.
Here is what you need to know.
1. Zimbabwe Has Started the Extradition Process to Put Walter Palmer on Trial
The Zimbabwe environment minister, Oppah Muchinguri, announced in a press conference that Zimbabwe’s prosecutor general had already started the process to extradite Walter Palmer, The Guardian reported. Muchinguri referred to Palmer as a “foreign poacher” and said he was wanted for financing an illegal hunt. Palmer allegedly paid $50,000 to hunt the lion in Zimbabwe, but Palmer claimed in a statement released earlier this week that he thought the hunt was legal at the time.
Muchinguri said in the press conference that they were not able to apprehend Palmer in Zimbabwe because he had already “absconded to his country of origin,” ABC News reported. The minister said there was a public outcry from 500,000 people seeking his extradition because he violated Zimbabwean laws, including the Parks and Wildlife Act. Muchinguri described Palmer’s actions as well-orchestrated:
(Palmer committed) a well-orchestrated agenda which would tarnish the image of Zimbabwe and further strain the relationship between Zimbabwe and the USA.
When U.S. citizens began signing a White House petition seeking Palmer’s extradition, the White House responded that it would review the request if more than 100,00 signatures were obtained. The threshold was passed on Thursday. Josh Earnest, White House Press Secretary, told BBC News that it was up to the U.S. Department of Justice to respond to any extradition requests.
2. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Is Also Investigating Palmer
On Thursday, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service released a statement on Twitter that it would also be looking into Palmer’s activities to see if any U.S. laws were violated. It said that it took the story of what happened to Cecil very seriously. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, however, was having trouble getting in contact with Palmer.
The Safari Club International was also launching an investigation into Palmer’s activities, stating that anyone who took wildlife illegally should be punished as much as the law allowed, USA Today reported.
3. Palmer Wrote a Letter to His Patients Addressing His Hunting Activities
Palmer sent a letter to the patients of his dental practice on Thursday, addressing the controversy, The Guardian reported. He had to shut down his dental practice due to the protesting and the media attention. In his letter, he apologized for killing Cecil, but added that hunting was his passion. He said he would work with Zimbabwean officials and he had no idea that the lion he killed was a favorite of the region. He wrote:
I don’t often talk about hunting with my patients because it can be a divisive and emotionally charged topic. I understand and respect that not everyone shares the same views on hunting.
According to The Guardian, Palmer has killed 43 animals that include an African lion from 2005, a mountain lion, an elephant, and a polar bear.
4. Two Men in Zimbabwe Are Being Charged for Illegal Activities Connected to the Hunt
Honest Trymore Ndlovu and Theo Bronkorst are being charged with illegal activities connected to the hunt in Zimbabwe. Ndlovu owns the land where Cecil was killed and Bronkhorst is a professional hunter who lured Cecil away from Hwange park. Bronkhorst has been charged with failing to prevent Cecil’s killing, according to the Star Tribune. Ndlovu was expected to be charged this week, but his charges have now been delayed until next week. Muchinguri said in his extradition press conference that Ndlovu violated the law by not having the necessary permit or quota allowing a lion to be killed on his land.
5. This Is Not the First Time Palmer Has Been in Legal Trouble
Palmer has been in legal trouble before. He faced possible prison time after making a false statement to a federal agent when he hunted a black bear in Wisconsin in 2006. He shot the bear 40 miles outside of a legal hunting zone, and lied about where he shot it to a U.S. Fish & Wildlife agent. He was placed on probation for a year and ordered to pay $2,938 in restitution.
Palmer was also accused of sexual harassment in 2009, resulting in his paying a fine to settle the claim. The accusation came from a former employee and the case was dismissed in 2010 after a board determined that he had fulfilled the requirements of the settlement agreement. His insurance company paid $127,500 to the former employee.