Paperwork has saved American dentist and big game hunter Walter Palmer from facing criminal charges in the controversial death of a prized and beloved lion named Cecil in July.
After a thorough examination of the papers Palmer obtained in order to hunt in Zimbabwe, the country’s environment minister, Oppah Muchinguri, said everything was indeed above board, BBC News reported.
Therefore, Walter cannot be charged, since he had obtained legal authority to hunt and didn’t break any laws when he killed Cecil with a bow and arrow. A request to extradite Palmer has been retracted, New Zimbabwe added.
Moving forward from the internationally-publicized incident, Zimbabwe is going to review how it issues hunting licenses, and Walter Palmer is no longer welcome within its borders — to hunt, Reuters added.
“He is free to come, not for hunting, but as a tourist,” Muchinguri said.
Despite this decision, two people still face criminal charges in connection with Walter Palmer’s hunt.
Walter had paid park guides at Hwange National Park $50,000 to help him kill the lion, Sky News added. One guide, a professional hunter named Theo Bronkhorst, is in serious trouble right now even as Walter is cleared. He is charged with breaching hunting rules.
Bronkhorst and a man who owns land that borders the park where the lion was killed, Honest Trymore Ndlovu, both stand accused of luring the animal from a protected area using bait. He has been charged with allowing Palmer to hunt Cecil.
Bronkhorst is currently amid a trial to answer those charges; it recommences on Thursday. Both men deny their alleged crimes, but could face 15 years in prison if convicted.
The minister, Muchinguri, has previously used some pretty strong language against Palmer in the weeks and months following the animal’s death. In July, she wanted him to be extradited back to the country to face charges, and later referred to him as a “foreign poacher.”
Further, the fact that Walter used a bow and arrow to kill the lion was apparently against the country’s hunting regulations. And his hunt was unsuccessful, Sky News added — the lion didn’t die right away and had to be put down with a second arrow after officials found him.
The Minnesota dentist has faced serious local, national, and international backlash for killing the animal. Thirteen-years-old, Cecil was friendly toward visitors and beloved; tagged with GPS as part of Oxford University conservation research; led two prides with six lionesses, 12 cubs, and another lion named Jericho; and was easily recognized because of his size and black mane.
Palmer never denied killing him, but he always stressed that he did so with proper licenses and other paperwork in order.
“If I had known this lion had a name and was important to the country or a study obviously I wouldn’t have taken it. Nobody in our hunting party knew before or after the name of this lion.”
In the aftermath, Walter’s name was released to the press, and he and his family were threatened online. The dentist even closed his practice, returning only this September amid mild protest. He said that even though his wife and daughter weren’t involved in the hunt, they were targeted on social media.
Now that Palmer isn’t facing criminal charges and is free to visit Zimbabwe as a tourist, the question remains — will he return? During the interview in which he finally spoke out about the incident, Walter didn’t eliminate the possibility.
“Zimbabwe has been a wonderful country for me to hunt in, and I have always followed the laws.”
[Photo Courtesy paula french / Shutterstock]