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Cecil's killer to face justice?

July 31, 2015

Zimbabwe has called for the United States to extradite the Minnesota dentist who beheaded a beloved lion. US officials are investigating whether Walter Palmer violated national law by killing Cecil.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Zumaress

In a news conference Friday, Zimbabwe Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri referred to 55-year-old Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer as a "foreign poacher" and said she understood that 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 made accountable for his illegal actions," Muchinguri told reporters in Harare Friday.

According to authorities in Zimbabwe, Palmer and a local accomplice had lured the lion out of the Hwange National Park using a dead animal as bait. Palmer initially wounded Cecil with an arrow. The hunters then tracked the lion for 40 hours before shooting, skinning and beheading him.

Palmer allegedly paid $50,000 (45,600 euros) for the privilege. The professional Zimbabwean guide who organized the killing of Cecil the lion has been charged with "failing to prevent an illegal hunt."

Earlier this week, Palmer released a statement through a publicist saying he believed that he had engaged in a legal kill. The publicity firm has since dropped Palmer as a client.

"You don't want to hear some of the things I want to do to that man," the 93-year-old actress and animal activist Betty White said of Palmer. "It's such a heartbreaker. "

Investigators found Cecil's headless corpse with the help of a tracking collar he wore as part of wildlife research funded by Oxford University.

'Such a heartbreaker'

More than 850,000 people worldwide have signed an online form expressing outrage over Cecil's slaughter, and at least 100,000 Americans have petitioned the White House "to fully cooperate with the Zimbabwe authorities and to extradite Walter Palmer promptly at the Zimbabwe government's request."

The US has investigated whether Palmer conspired to violate the Lacey Act, which prohibits trade in wildlife that has been illegally killed, transported or sold. Edward Grace, deputy law enforcement chief of of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, issued a statement urging Palmer to contact the agency immediately.

Harald Braun, Germany's ambassador to the United Nations, has called himself "outraged at what happened to this poor lion."

mkg/jil (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)