London, July 31 (IANS) Zimbabwe has sought from the US extradition of the dentist who killed Cecil the lion, the most famous creature in the country’s national park.
Zimbabwe’s Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri said at a press conference that Walter Palmer, 55, was a “foreign poacher” and that Zimbabwe’s prosecutor general had already started the process to have him extradited, BBC reported on Friday.
A bilateral extradition treaty between the US and Zimbabwe has been in effect since April 2000 in cases where an individual is charged with what would be a criminal offence in both countries.
Palmer, a keen big game hunter who is said to have paid around $50,000 for a chance to kill Cecil, will be facing trial for financing the illegal hunt if he is extradited to Zimbabwe.
Cecil was a male African lion who lived in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. The animal was shot on July 1 in the park.
The big lion – a major attraction at the park – was recognisable because of his large size and distinctive black mane and who seemingly enjoyed human company. He was being studied and tracked by Oxford University as part of a larger study.
In further infringement of the park rules, the hunters then removed his collar.
During the hunt, it was alleged that 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.
Hunting is legal in Zimbabwe and other neighbouring countries, but only with permits granted by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.
Only animals that have been put on an annual hunting quota by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management can be killed within a private hunting concession and government-controlled safari areas — but never in a national park.
Cecil’s death sparked outrage among animal conservationists across the world and prompted responses from top politicians.