Lion killer’s extradition being sought

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe will seek the extradition of an American dentist who killed a lion that was lured out of a national park and caused international outrage, a Cabinet minister said Friday.

In the Zimbabwean government’s first official comment on the killing of Cecil the lion, the environment, water and climate minister lashed out at Walter James Palmer, accusing him even of trying to hurt Zimbabwe’s image.

“Unfortunately it was too late to apprehend the foreign poacher as he had already absconded to his country of origin,” Oppah Muchinguri told a news conference. “We are appealing to the responsible authorities for his extradition to Zimbabwe so that he be made accountable.”

On Tuesday, Palmer issued a statement saying he relied on his guides to ensure the hunt was legal. Two Zimbabweans — a professional hunter and a farm owner — have been arrested in the killing of the lion, an act which has garnered worldwide condemnation. Palmer has kept a low profile, but on Friday U.S. federal wildlife authorities said they have been contacted by a representative of the Minnesota dentist.

A State Department official told The Associated Press on Friday that, as far as the department knows, the United States has not extradited anyone to the Republic of Zimbabwe since the extradition treaty with the United States took effect in 2000. Nor has Zimbabwe extradited anyone to the United States, said the official, who was not authorized to address the issue by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The killing of Cecil gained global attention as the U.N. General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution Thursday aimed at combatting illegal wildlife trafficking and poaching, the culmination of a two-year campaign led by Gabon and Germany.

“We very much welcome the decision by the General Assembly which will help in the protection of wildlife, of fauna and flora,” Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

Palmer is believed to have shot the lion with a bow on July 1 outside Hwange National Park, after it was lured onto private land with a carcass of an animal laid out on a car, Zimbabwean conservationists have said. Some 40 hours later, the wounded cat was tracked down and Palmer allegedly killed it with a gun, they said.

 

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