The American dentist who allegedly paid $55,000 to kill a beloved lion in Zimbabwe has come under fire since his identity was disclosed to the public this week. Stories about Cecil the lion and the hunter who killed him, Walter Palmer of Minnesota, have soared to the top of trending lists on Facebook and Twitter, and numerous angry bloggers, editorialists, and TV hosts have attacked the dentist for his actions. Local hunter Theo Bronkhorst was charged with failing to prevent an illegal hunt in court yesterday, according to NY Daily News, and now members of the American public are calling for Palmer’s extradition to Zimbabwe so he too can atone for his actions.
Prior to this week, it’s safe to say most people hadn’t heard of Cecil the lion, and that many of the folks taking to social media to chastise his killer are not animal rights activists by any traditional definition. Zimbabwe conservationists say Cecil was lured out of the Hwange National Park and slain on land that was not zoned for hunting lions. Because of the attention raised by Cecil’s death, many who have spent their lives trying to protect animals hope it will alert the larger public that, each year, American hunters kill many lions and other wild African animals purely for sport.
Palmer is coming under fire as an individual not only for the illegal killing of Cecil the lion. News of past transgressions have come to light in the wake of this news. CNN reports “an individual the same age” as the dentist was charged with illegally killing a black bear in Minnesota, a crime that the individual pled guilty to, and was ordered probation and a $3,000 fine. Palmer is known to have legally hunted a slew of other animals in Africa as well, including a lion in 2008, a leopard, and a rhinoceros.
Shortly after his identity was disclosed to the public, Palmer closed his dental practice, River Bluff Dental, and took down the company’s website and Facebook page, in response to furious public backlash. The office doors have become part protest site and part shrine to the fallen lion. Protesters gathered there on Wednesday afternoon to rally in support of justice for Cecil. Earlier that day, an email statement sent to the media claimed Palmer didn’t know it was illegal to lure the lion, who wore a GPS-tracking collar as part of an Oxford University research study. Reportedly, the guides who assisted Palmer with the kill tried unsuccessfully to destroy the GPS device after they beheaded and skinned Cecil, and it was the tracking device that allowed researchers to locate the lion’s discarded body and identify him.
Zimbabwean police have not stated whether they are seeking to press charges against Palmer, and Palmer’s whereabouts are currently unknown.
Images via Jennifer Mayerle