Officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cannot find Walter Palmer, the American dentist who killed Cecil the Lion earlier this month, despite repeated attempts to contact him. The government’s inability to find Cecil the Lion’s killer came to light just as Oppah Muchinguri, Zimbabwe’s environment minister, held a press conference Friday morning stating that they have already started the process to extradite the lion killer to Zimbabwe to face charges in Cecil’s death.
“The illegal killing was deliberate. We are appealing to the responsible authorities for his extradition to Zimbabwe so that he can be held accountable for his illegal actions.”
Ed Grace, chief of law enforcement for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, spoke with the Washington Post on Thursday, saying that investigators have been to Palmer’s house, his dental practice, emailed him, and called every phone number associated with the lion hunter, but all to no avail.
“I’m sure he knows [we’re looking for him]. We’ve made repeated attempts to try and get in contact with him.”
Palmer issued a public statement on Tuesday, saying that he “deeply” regretted killing Cecil the Lion, and that he had no idea “that the lion I took was well known.” Since his statement, Palmer has been MIA, having even closed down his dental practice for the time being, amid protests, threats, and a make-shift memorial to Cecil the Lion set up on the practice’s doorstep.
If he were to be extradited to face charges for Cecil the Lion’s death, Palmer could face a mandatory fine of $20,000 and up to 10 years in jail in Zimbabwe, where lion poaching is a serious offense.
Though the White House has agreed to look over an extradition petition that has already garnered 120,000 signatures, lawyer Alec Muchadehama says it may not be as easy as it seems. In 1998, the two countries signed a treaty stating that a person can be extradited if they are accused of an offense that carries more than a year in prison, but given the high-profile nature of Cecil the Lion’s death, Muchadehama says it may be difficult to convince U.S. courts that Palmer will be tried without bias.
“They [U.S. courts] may actually doubt the competence of the judiciary here to try him in an objective manner particularly given these prejudicial pronouncements that the politicians are already making.”
Being the head of two prides, Cecil was the father of 24 lion cubs. Twelve of which, Johnny Rodrigues of The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force says, may have already been killed by a rival male lion.
“The next lion in the hierarchy, Jericho, will most likely kill all Cecil’s cubs so that he can insert his own bloodline into the females. It might have happened already because Cecil was killed back on 1 July. If Jericho finds that there is a pride of lions he might just take them on.”
Rodrigues also says that sadly, there’s not much they can do about Jericho killing Cecil’s lion cubs, as there is no sanctuary for them to be relocated, and insufficient resources hinders charities’ abilities to help the lion cubs in the wild.
For $50,000, Walter James Palmer killed Cecil the Lion, a friendly and beloved national treasure and now, due to not having the protection of their father anymore, Cecil’s cubs will face the same fate as he did, but at least Jericho has instinct as an excuse.
[Image Credits: Header — BBC, Body — Distractify]