Walter Palmer, the American dentist who killed Cecil the lion, will not be charged by Zimbabwean authorities as he had a permit to conduct the game hunt legally, Reuters reports.
Speaking to reporters, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Zimbabwe’s minister of environment, water and climate said: ”We approached the police and then the Prosecutor General, and it turned out that (Walter) Palmer came to Zimbabwe because all the papers were in order.”
At the end of July, Muchinguri-Kashiri called for the extradition of Palmer in order for the dentist to be held liable for what Zimbabwean authorities believed to be an illegal hunt at the time. There was also a petition—which garnered over 236,900 signatures—urging the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and the attorney general, Loretta Lynch, “to fully cooperate with the Zimbabwe authorities and to extradite Walter Palmer promptly at the Zimbabwe government’s request.”
After news of the lion’s killing was widely reported—which also put the debate on big-game hunting under the spotlight—Palmer wrote a letter to his Minnesota patients, claiming that he had not known that Cecil the lion was a famous animal, adding that, according to him, his hunt was legal as he had secured the necessary permits.
“To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted. I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt,” wrote Palmer.
So far, Zimbabwean authorities have charged two Zimbabwean nationals—Theo Bronkhorst, a professional hunter and guide who assisted Palmer to lure the lion out of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, and Honest Ndlovu, owner of the land on which Cecil the lion was lured to and shot dead for conniving to kill the lion.
Bronkhorst is expected to appear in the Harare high court on Thursday (Oct. 14), and faces a charge of “failing to prevent an illegal hunt”, but with the comments made by Zimbabwe’s minister of environment today, Reuters says that his lawyers will ask for the charges to be dropped.