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Hunter becomes the hunted as US authorities seek lion killer

By staff reporter

Published 01/08/2015

In hiding: Walter Palmer
In hiding: Walter Palmer

The law enforcement arm of the US Fish And Wildlife Service is trying to trace the dentist who killed a protected lion while on a guided hunt in Zimbabwe.

The agency is investigating circumstances surrounding the death of Cecil the lion, Fish And Wildlife law enforcement deputy chief Edward Grace said.

The animal was lured from a wildlife preserve and shot by American hunter Walter James Palmer on July 1.

The 55-year-old, a dentist from Minneapolis, is believed to have shot the lion with a bow before tracking the wounded big cat for 40 hours and finishing it off with a gun.

Mr Grace said multiple efforts to reach the dentist had been unsuccessful and added: "We ask that Dr Palmer or his representative contact us immediately."

Extradition is also being sought for the lion killer, Zimbabwe's wildlife minister revealed.

Oppah Muchinguri, environment, water and climate minister, told how his government wanted Mr Palmer tried in Zimbabwe "because he violated our laws". The minister added: "Police should take the first step to approach the prosecutor general, who will approach the Americans.

"The processes have already started.

"Unfortunately, it was too late to apprehend the foreign poacher as he had already absconded to his country of origin.

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

"There has been an outcry. Almost 500,000 people are calling for his extradition and we need this support."

Mr Muchinguri said both Mr Palmer and Theo Bronkhorst, a professional hunter who accompanied him, had violated Zimbabwe's Parks and Wildlife Act, which controls the use of bow and arrow hunting.

He added that Palmer, who reportedly paid $50,000 (£32,000) to hunt the lion, additionally violated the act through financing an illegal hunt.

And the landowner also broke the law because he "allowed a hunt to be conducted without a quota and necessary permit", Mr Muchinguri said.

On top of that, he accused Mr Palmer of "a well-orchestrated agenda which would tarnish the image of Zimbabwe and further strain the relationship between Zimbabwe and the US".

The American hunter has previously issued a statement saying he relied on his guides to ensure the hunt was legal.

The professional hunter and the farm owner have been arrested over the lion killing, which has generated headlines and been condemned across the world.

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