Zimbabwe will not charge American dentist Walter Palmer for killing a prized lion in July because he had obtained legal authority to conduct the hunt, a cabinet minister has said.
“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,” the environment minister, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, told reporters, adding that the American could not be charged.
Palmer, from Minnesota, has always maintained that he believes he acted legally. Last month he told the Associated Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he was stunned to find out his hunting party had killed one of Zimbabwe’s treasured animals.
“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. “Nobody in our hunting party knew before or after the name of this lion.”
Palmer, who has several big-game kills to his name, reportedly paid thousands of dollars for the guided hunt.
Muchinguri Kashiri said Palmer was free to visit Zimbabwe as a tourist but not as a hunter. The implication was he would not be issued the permits a hunter needs.
Two more people still face charges related to Cecil’s killing. Both allegedly were involved in using bait to lure Cecil out of his habitat in Hwange National Park so he could be killed.
Theo Bronkhorst, a professional hunter in Zimbabwe, is charged with breaching hunting rules in connection with the hunt in which Cecil was killed. A game park owner is also charged with allowing an illegal hunt. Both have denied the charges.
Bronkhorst is expected to appear in a Hwange court on Thursday where a magistrate will rule on a request by his lawyers that his indictment be quashed.
Palmer, 55, has previously said that the hunt was legal and no one in the hunting party realised the targeted lion was Cecil, a well-known tourist attraction in the park.