The Zimbabwean authorities have officially stated they want Walter James Palmer, the dentist responsible for killing Cecil, the lion, in an illegal hunt, extradited to the country so he can be tried for his crime.
“Unfortunately it was too late to apprehend the foreign poacher as he had already absconded to his country of origin,” said the environment, water and climate minister Oppah Muchinguri in a news conference. “We are appealing to the responsible authorities for his extradition to Zimbabwe so that he be made accountable.”
The African authorities are the latest group to want Palmer to show his face after he became the most infamous man in the world one week ago.
Since his identity was revealed as the man responsible for luring Cecil, a beloved lion, from a national park and shooting him first with a bow and arrow and then with a gun, animal lovers have been hounding him on the Internet. A memorial for Cecil was set up in front of Palmer’s dentistry practice in Minn. and some have called for him to be hanged or killed with his own weapons.
After killing Cecil, leaving the beheaded animal behind and trying to destroy the GPS tracker (the proof of his crime) that was on Cecil’s neck, Palmer has disappeared from the map, however.
Following the outpour of backlash for his actions, Palmer at first indignantly stood by his actions saying he thought his hunt had been legal and he was misled by his guides. On Tuesday, he emailed his patients saying he would resume his practice “as soon as possible,” and that is the last anyone has heard of him.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been wanting to have a chat with Palmer about his actions but after stopping by his house, his dental practice, and flooding his inbox with messages, they still haven’t heard from the man.
“I’m sure he knows” the government is looking for him, Ed Grace, chief of law enforcement for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told The Washington Post on Thursday. “We’ve made repeated attempts to try and get in contact with him.”
Meanwhile the Zimbabwe Embassy in Washington said it hasn’t received specific instructions on the extradition yet.
If Palmer is extradited, the actual charges against him haven’t been revealed. Muchinguri did explain during the news conference, however, that Palmer was an accomplice to an illegal hunt and violated the Parks and Wildlife Act, which controls the use of bow and arrow hunting. By paying $50,000 for killing the lion, he also financed an illegal hunt.
“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,” Muchinguri added. “Police should take the first step to approach the prosecutor general who will approach the Americans. The processes have already started.”
The two Zimbabwean men who guided Palmer, professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst and a landowner, have been arrested already. Bronkhorst was released on $1,000 bail and if convicted could spend up to 15 years in jail.
Animal lovers and advocates worldwide are calling for Palmer to face justice in the same way, which, according to Muchinguri, motivated the extradition request.
“There has been an outcry,” 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.”
Now we just have to find him. Have you seen this man?