Walter Palmer the hunter who killed Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe says he believed the hunt was legal and had no idea the animal he went after was a “known, local favourite“.
“Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion” he said.
The lion was lured from a national park and shot with a crossbow, before being tracked for 40 hours and then shot with a rifle, according to Johnny Rodrigues, head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force.
Zimbabwean police have warned that he faces poaching charges while there has been a furious backlash on social media.
Right now, the Fish and Wildlife Service is considering a petition to list lions as endangered, and a massive outcry from across the country could speed up the process and start saving lions now. Petition is at bottom of article, please scroll down, sign and share with others
The Guardian reports:
The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force charity had initially suggested the culprit had been from Spain but on Tuesday named him as Palmer, a US citizen from Eden Prairie, Minnesota. This was later confirmed by police.
The charity’s chairman, Johnny Rodrigues, alleged that Palmer and professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst had gone hunting at night and tied a dead animal to their vehicle to lure Cecil out of Hwange national park.
“Palmer shot Cecil with a bow and arrow but this shot didn’t kill him,” he said. “They tracked him down and found him 40 hours later when they shot him with a gun. The hunters then found that the dead lion was wearing a tracking collar, which they unsuccessfully tried to hide.”
Rodrigues added: “Cecil was skinned and beheaded … Walter Palmer apparently paid $50,000 for the kill and we assume Theo Bronkhorst received this money.”
Cecil was wearing a GPS collar as part of a research project that Oxford University has been running since 1999, making it possible to trace his last movements.
Initially his organisation had said the whereabouts of Cecil’s head was unknown, sparking concerns that it would be sent abroad as a trophy. But on Tuesday Rodrigues said the head of the lion had been located in Zimbabwe and impounded to be used as evidence in the investigation. “The saddest part of all is that now that Cecil is dead, 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.”
Palmer – married with two children and thought to be in his 50s – became a target as the Facebook page of his dental clinic was flooded with angry comments and threats. An online petition demanding justice for Cecil had gathered more than 12,000 signatures. An Associated Press reporter approached his clinic in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington but was told he was not seeing patients on Tuesday.
A spokesman for Palmer said the hunter was “obviously quite upset over everything”, adding: “As far as I understand, Walter believes that he might have shot the lion that has been referred to as Cecil.
Palmer’s love of hunting is well documented online. In 2009, he was interviewed by the New York Times about his slaying of an elk that was touted as a kill for the archery record books.
Noting that Palmer had learned to shoot at age five and was “capable of skewering a playing card from 100 yards with his compound bow,” the article said he had paid $45,000 at auction to take part in the hunt, with the proceeds being used to help fund the elk habitat. As the hunting season began, Palmer was on probation for lying to authorities over the exact location where he had killed a black bear in northern Wisconsin in 2006.
A 2008 Flickr photo album by Trophy Hunt America and Porcupine Creek Outfitters, a company that leads hunting expeditions, shows Walter Palmer posing next to a variety of slain animals, including a wood bison and a lion. In other online photos Palmer sits next to a slain rhino – the caption stating that the photo was taken in South Africa – or holds up a 175-pound leopard in Zimbabwe.
Emmanuel Fundira, president of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, called for Palmer to be prosecuted as a criminal. “Cecil was a collared lion, a protected species,” he said. “The rules are clear in Zimbabwe that no protected lions should be hunted. The American members of our association are encouraged to conduct themselves in a way that is beyond reproach. We are using hunting as a conservation tool, but when the tool is abused in this way, it destroys the whole principle.”
He added: “The culprits should be brought to book and punished at the highest level. This is really reckless.”
An online petition has been created asking the US Government to fast-track African lions as endangered
Please sign HERE
Fast-tracking a listing of the African lion under the Endangered Species Act would immediately boost the survival chances of the iconic big cat, by generally prohibiting the import of African lions and their parts into the US unless they serve a legitimate conservation purpose. As concerned citizens, we urge you list the African lion as endangered without delay!