Zimbabwe moves to extradite Cecil the lion’s killer

Cecil the lion's death at the hands of American dentist Walter Palmer has caused international outrage. Picture: Getty

Cecil the lion's death at the hands of American dentist Walter Palmer has caused international outrage. Picture: Getty

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ZIMBABWE has begun extradition proceedings against the American dentist who killed a lion that was lured out of a national park and shot with a bow and a gun.

“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 said yesterday. “We are appealing to the responsible authorities for his extradition to Zimbabwe so that he be made accountable.”

We are appealing to the responsible authorities for his extradition to Zimbabwe so that he be made accountable.”

Oppah Muchinguri

On Tuesday, American hunter Walter 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 connection with the death of the lion known as Cecil.

“There has been an outcry,” Ms 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.”

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. She said Palmer, who reportedly paid $50,000 (£32,000) to hunt the lion, violated the act through financing an illegal hunt.

There is an extradition treaty between Zimbabwe and the United States. The US Embassy in Zimbabwe said yesterday that it does not comment on extradition matters.

Ms Muchinguri accused Palmer of “a well-orchestrated agenda which would tarnish the image of Zimbabwe and further strain the relationship between Zimbabwe and the US.”

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, Zimbabwean conservationists have said. Some 40 hours later, the wounded cat was tracked down and Palmer allegedly killed it with a gun, they said.

Authorities seeking Palmer’s extradition have described him as an accomplice to the illegal hunt. But they have not specified what charges might be laid against him.

Bronkhorst was released on $1,000 bail after appearing in court in Hwange, about 435 miles west of the capital Harare, according to his defence lawyer, Givemore Muvhiringi. If convicted, Bronkhorst faces up to 15 years in prison.

Palmer, 55, is a dentist in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington.

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