Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist and "big game" hunter who admitted killing the famous African lion known as "Cecil," has reportedly gone into hiding, under fire not only from social media, but from officials in Zimbabwe who say that the 55-year-old dad of two could face up to 15 years in prison in their country if he is found guilty of poaching the tourist-favorite lion.
Not only did outraged internet users bombard the social media accounts held by Palmer's business, River Bluff Dental, but protesters staged vigils outside the dental office in Bloomington, Minnesota, even reportedly ridiculing Palmer's hunting activities, staging their own "hunts" with squirt guns and stuffed animals.
Other stuffed animals were left at the front door of the dental practice, along with a note written in red felt marker reading, "You are a coward and a killer."
A message for #WalterPalmer (who killed #CecilTheLion), at the entrance of his office in Minnesota. pic.twitter.com/9ZmRR5LmUdPalmer's office remained closed on Wednesday, and news media who visited his Eden Prarie mansion were unable to find the dentist or his family there, either.
— Sattar Saeedi (@SattarSaeedi) July 29, 2015
The home of Dr. Walter Palmer. The big game hunter is not here. Not at work. Still looking... #CecilTheLion pic.twitter.com/Xv29nKTBajA spokesperson for a public relations firm apparently hired by Palmer — who reportedly paid about $55,000 for the guided hunt, on which he shot Cecil the Lion with a bow and arrow — told the media that he believed his client to be hiding somewhere in the Minneapolis-St.Paul area.
— Paul Blume (@PaulBlume_FOX9) July 28, 2015
While hunting lions is legal in certain areas of Zimbabwe, more than 600 are killed by "trophy" hunters each year. Hunting lions who live on protected lands, such as Cecil's home of Hwange National Park, is against the law and considered poaching.
Under Zimbabwe's laws, officials said, the penalty for the crime of which Palmer is now accused can be up to 15 years behind bars. Palmer's guide on the hunt that killed Cecil, Theo Bronkhurst, now faces that penalty.
Also arrested and facing the charges was Zimbabwean farmer Honest Ndlovu, who owned the land to which Cecil was lured using the temptation of food as "bait." Though hunting lions on Ndlovu's land would be legal if the lions were native to that property, tricking lions into leaving the park so they can be killed is against the law.
The United States has a strong extradition treaty with Zimbabwe that was signed by President Bill Clinton and has been in effect since 2000. The treaty requires that an individual accused of acts that violate both Zimbabwe and United States laws must be extradited for trial.
A Minnesota congressional representative, Betty McCollum, has called for a federal investigation to determine if Walter Palmer broke any U.S. laws in the hunt that killed Cecil the Lion. If it is found that Palmer violated domestic as well as Zimbabwean laws, he would be sent back to Zimbabwe, assuming officials in that country request his extradition.
[Images: Facebook, BBC Screengrab]