While animal lovers across the world mourn the killing of Zimbabwe’s beloved lion, Cecil, the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force has identified the lion killer as Walter Palmer, a Minneapolis-based dentist who has a history of killing animals illegally.
On July 6, Palmer and his hunting party lured 13-year-old Cecil out of his protected conservation park at night by dragging a dead animal with their vehicle and scenting an area just half a kilometer outside park borders. When they spotted the lion using a search-light, Palmer shot Cecil with a bow and arrow, which didn’t kill him. They then tracked the wounded lion for 40 hours and shot him dead with a rifle when they found him.
Allegedly, Palmer bribed his guide to remove Cecil’s GPS collar. Palmer had his guides decapitate Cecil and skin him, leaving his headless and skinned carcass miles outside of the park.
Two individuals have been arrested on poaching charges since Cecil’s body was discovered, and his head and skin have been confiscated to use as evidence. Removal of the GPS collar, which was part of an Oxford University research project, is a violation of park rules, as is hunting at night.
Wildlife conservationists have set up an online petition to bring justice for Cecil and have so far garnered over 50,000 signatures.
The suspected “hunter,” Walter Palmer, is an avid bow hunter who routinely pays tens of thousands of dollars to hunt animals. In 2008, Palmer pleaded guilty to making a false statement to federal wildlife officials over the exact location he killed a black bear in Wisconsin, according to the New York Times.
For his part, Palmer is “obviously quite upset over everything,” according to his spokesman. He admits to potentially killing the lion known as Cecil, but claims it was all legal.
“As far as I understand, Walter believes that he might have shot that lion that has been referred to as Ceci. What he’ll tell you is that he had the proper legal permits and he had hired several professional guides, so he’s not denying that he may be the person who shot this lion. He is a big-game hunter; he hunts the world over.”
Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, said:
“This has been going on too long. Cecil is the 23 or 24th lion that has been collared and then killed in Hwange. We have to try and stop it.”