Walter Palmer, lion-killing Disney villain, is nowhere to be found.
The slippery dentist, who disappeared soon after reports surfaced that he and two Zimbabwe-based guides (both currently out on bail) illegally hunted and killed Cecil the lion, initially claimed he would cooperate with authorities. Clearly, Palmer’s willingness to cooperate did not extend to his own crimes.
Zimbabwean environment minister Oppah Muchinguri has called for Palmer to be extradited to Zimbabwe to face trial for financing an illegal hunt, saying in a press conference that Zimbabwe’s prosecutor general had begun the process for extradition. The U.S. and Zimbabwe do have an extradition treaty, in place since 2000, which allows individuals to be transported if the charge is a crime in both countries. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently investigating whether Palmer broke any U.S. laws.
According to Edward Grace, the USFWS deputy chief of law enforcement, “multiple efforts to contact Dr. Walter Palmer have been unsuccessful.”
In an interview with the Telegraph, Theo Bronkhurst, Palmer’s guide—now forbidden from continuing with his hunting business—said that he didn’t see the collar until after the lion was killed. “I could not have seen the collar at night. We would never shoot a collared animal. I was devastated, and so was the client, we were both upset, and I panicked and took it off and put it in a tree.”
He also said that Palmer had hoped to kill an elephant next, but couldn’t find one big enough to satisfy his bloodlust. “The client asked if we would find him an elephant larger than 63 pounds, [the weight of one tusk] which is a very large elephant, but I told him I would not be able to find one so big, so the client left the next day.” Thanks, Walt, for providing further proof against the so-called ecological benefits of trophy hunting; as Quartz points out: “Though many hunters claim to limit their pursuits to old, sick, and/or infertile specimens, the culture of trophy hunting renders the largest, most impressive animals desirable,” which leads to a kind of “reverse-Darwinism effect.”
Bronkhurst continued, “I don’t want to shoot any animals. I do it because it is the only way I can earn a living...I am a farmer.” Bronkhurst lost his farm in 2000 after being evicted during Mugabe’s violent land grab. If convicted of killing an unauthorized lion, Bronkhurst could face over 15 years in prison. Bronkhurst “never knew anything about Cecil, this famous lion”; the killing has attracted little attention in the country in which it took place.
Alex Magaisa, a Zimbabwean writer and academic, wrote that none of his family and friends were familiar with Cecil, explaining that while the locals “have always valued wild animals,” the economics of tourism and hunting in Zimbabwe are “mired in elitism and beyond the reach of many ordinary Zimbabweans.” Cecil, he explains, was “only famous to a segment of society, a privileged segment – both local and international, that have a stake, either as vendors or as consumers, in the very lucrative tourist industry.”
On Thursday, the White House said it would review a public petition to extradite Walter Palmer if it receives over 100,000 signatures. At the time of writing this post, the petition (which you can sign here) had almost 170,000 signatures.
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Image via Associated Press.