A month after returning to work at his Minnesota dental practice, big game hunter Walter Palmer is likely breathing a sigh of relief as officials in Zimbabwe have decided not to prosecute him for killing Cecil, the beloved lion, earlier this summer. Others involved in the slaying have been charged – an indication that government authorities believe some wrong-doing did occur.
Just a couple of months ago, Zimbabwe’s Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri had a different story. He called for Palmer’s extradition, insisting that the American dentist be held responsible for his part in the illegal killing. Now, Muchinguri-Kashiri has concluded Palmer shouldn’t be charged in the death because he possessed legal permits for lion hunting, regardless of his participation in luring Cecil outside of Hwange National Park.
“We approached the police and then the prosecutor general, and it turned out that Palmer came to Zimbabwe because all the papers were in order,” Muchinguri-Kashiri told the media. Despite that, the minister suggested that Palmer’s days of hunting in Zimbabwe are over. Muchinguri-Kashiri reportedly said Palmer would be welcome to visit the country in the future as a tourist but not as a hunter.
Although the Zimbabwe government has refused to press charges, animal rights advocates are pushing for reconsideration. The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, which first broke the news of Cecil’s death, has criticized the decision and hopes to pursue prosecution in the United States. Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the lion’s killing.