Zimbabwe’s Environment and Wildlife Minister, Oppah Muchinguri, on Friday said Zimbabwe will apply for the extradition of a U.S. dentist who illegally killed a famous lion in the southern African nation.
The killing of Cecil, an iconic lion in Zimbabwe popular with locals and tourists, has been met with global outrage.
The Minnesota dentist, Walter Palmer, went into hiding after he was bombarded with angry messages online and threats.
“Zimbabwe wants to try Palmer `for the offences he committed so that he be held accountable for this illegal action,’’ Muchinguri said.
According to Muchinguri, hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans have called for Palmer’s extradition on social media.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service meanwhile opened an investigation into the killing of Cecil on Thursday after Palmer admitted to hunting down the animal.
“We are investigating the killing of Cecil the lion; we will go where facts lead.
“We ask Dr Palmer or his rep to contact USFWS immediately,’’ the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wrote in a social media post.
Meanwhile, uproar over the killing continued online with Palmer’s name trending on social media.
The issue reached the UN, which incidentally passed its first-ever resolution on wildlife crime on Thursday.
Germany’s UN ambassador, Harald Braun, said he was “outraged at what happened to this poor lion”.
Gabon Foreign Minister, Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet, said he hoped the UN resolution would stop wildlife poaching, noting that the investigation by Zimbabwean authorities into the killing of Cecil was still ongoing.
“Considering the case of the killing of Cecil, it is a matter of very deep concern for all countries in Africa,’’ Issoze-Ngondet said.
Palmer was taken by two Zimbabweans in early July to Hwange National Park to bow-hunt at night. After locating Cecil with a spotlight, they lured him out of the park with meat tied to their car.
Palmer eventually shot but only wounded the lion with an arrow, and the hunters tracked for 40 hours before finding and killing him with a gunshot, while Cecil was skinned and beheaded.
Palmer allegedly paid 50,000 dollars for the hunt.
The animal’s remains were later found with the help of a tracking collar, which the lion was wearing as part of wildlife research funded by Oxford University.
Earlier this week, two Zimbabweans accused of assisting a U.S. tourist in killing the lion, Theo Bronkhorst, and farm owner, Honest Ndlovu, were released on bail of 1,000 dollars each.
The court case against Bronkhorst and Ndlovu would resume on Aug. 5 in the town of Hwange, located roughly 700 kilometres south-west of Harare.