American Dentist Won’t Be Charged for Killing Cecil the Lion

Zimbabwe officials say the big game hunter had acquired the right permits to shoot wildlife in the country.

Walter Palmer walks into his dental clinic in September. (Photo: Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

Oct 12, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

Walter Palmer, the infamous Minnesotan dentist who sparked international outrage when he killed Cecil, Zimbabwe’s most famous lion, will not be prosecuted, Zimbabwe officials said Monday.

Zimbabwe’s environment minister, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, told reporters that Palmer had obtained the right permits to hunt in the country and could not be charged with a crime.

“We approached the police and then the prosecutor general, and it turned out that Palmer came to Zimbabwe because all the papers were in order,” Muchinguri-Kashiri said.

The controversy surrounding the killing was spurred by both the target of the hunt—Cecil was a black-maned lion well known by tourists and safari goers who visited the country’s Hwange National Park—and the hunting style Palmer used to kill Cecil.

Hunting guides hired by Palmer reportedly tied a dead animal to the hood of a car and lured Cecil outside the park’s protected boundaries. The seasoned hunter shot the lion with a bow, wounding the animal before tracking it down and killing it hours later. Professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst—whom Palmer hired—and a game park owner who allowed the hunt to take place on his land are being charged with breaching hunting rules that led to Cecil’s death.

RELATED: An American Dentist Killed Zimbabwe’s Famous Lion

Muchinguri-Kashiri initially had called for Palmer’s extradition “so that he could be made accountable for his illegal actions.”

For his part, Palmer denied knowing that the lion he shot was a tourist attraction and also a test subject of a scientific study (Cecil was wearing a tracking collar as part of a research project to study lion populations in Zimbabwe).

“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,” Palmer said in an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune in September. “Nobody in our hunting party knew before or after the name of this lion.”

Muchinguri-Kashiri told reporters that Palmer was now free to visit Zimbabwe as a tourist but would not be issued a hunting permit in the country.