Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer is caught in the middle of a social media shit storm as the Telegraph has reported that the American hunter hunted and killed a popular attraction, Cecil the lion, from a national park in Zimbabwe.
Conservation groups in Zimbabwe reacted angrily to the news that the 13-year-old animal had been killed: partly because the lion was known to visitors and seemingly enjoyed human contact, and partly because of the way in which he was killed. He was lured out of the national park and shot.
“As far as I understand, Walter believes that he might have shot that lion that has been referred to as Cecil,” a spokesman for Mr Palmer said.
During the hunt – which the organisers later admitted was badly carried out – Cecil was lured at night about half a mile out of the national park using bait, and then shot with a bow and arrow. The next day he was found wounded by the hunters and killed, before being beheaded and skinned.
Animals cannot be killed within the confines of the park. The hunters then removed his collar – further contravening park rules.
In 2008, court records show, he (Palmer) pleaded guilty to making a false statement to federal wildlife officials concerning the exact location of the slaying of a black bear during a guided hunt in Wisconsin. He was sentenced to a year probation.
Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force’s Johnny Rodrigues gave this statement to The Guardian:
The hunt took place around 6 July. “They went hunting at night with a spotlight and they spotted Cecil,” Rodrigues said. “They tied a dead animal to their vehicle to lure Cecil out of the park and they scented an area about half a kilometre from the park.”
The hunter first shot at Cecil with a bow and arrow but failed to kill the lion. “They tracked him down and found him 40 hours later when they shot him with a gun,” Rodrigues said.
The 13-year-old lion was wearing a GPS collar as part of an Oxford University research project that had been running since 1999, making it possible to trace his last movements. Rodrigues said the hunters tried to destroy the collar, but failed.
Emmanuel Fundira, the president of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, confirmed at a news conference that Dr. Palmer is wanted for the death of Cecil the lion, but that his whereabouts were unknown.
UPDATE: Walter Palmer issued the following statement today regarding the killing of Cecil:
“In early July, I was in Zimbabwe on a bow hunting trip for big game. I hired several professional guides and they secured all proper 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.
“I have not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the U.S. about this situation, but will assist them in any inquiries they may have.
“Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion.”
A petition has been launched demanding justice for Cecil.