MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota dentist has been publicly condemned for killing a protected lion in Zimbabwe, and a hired guide has been charged with a crime. Here are some details about the case that has gained global attention.
Walter James Palmer, 55, is a dentist in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington. He's an active big-game hunter and has many kills to his name. His clinic's website, which is no longer online, said he enjoys outdoor activities and, "Anything allowing him to stay active and observe and photograph wildlife is where you will find Dr. Palmer when he not in the office."
In a letter to patients, he said that he rarely talked about his hunting with them because he understands they may have different views and it is a "divisive and emotionally charged topic."
Palmer, a bow hunter, hired local guides for an early summer hunting trip in Zimbabwe.
During their hunt, Palmer used an arrow to hit a lion that authorities said was lured from a protected wildlife preserve. The guides had tied a dead animal to their car to draw the lion out of a national park, said Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force. They tracked the wounded animal for 40 hours before it was shot dead with a gun, according to Rodrigues.
The lion, known as Cecil, had been collared as part of a research study.
In Zimbabwe, two men appeared in court Wednesday on allegations they helped Palmer kill the lion. Professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst was released on $1,000 bail and farm owner Honest Trymore Ndlovu was not charged and was released from custody, according to their attorneys.
Palmer is back in the United States and has said he relied on the local men to ensure it was a legal hunt.
News of Palmer's involvement sparked outrage across the globe. Celebrities joined in the public condemnation of Palmer on social media and television programs. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a statement saying Palmer "needs to be extradited, charged and, preferably, hanged."
In Minnesota, the attention forced Palmer to close his office and send patients elsewhere while he remained out of sight, his exact whereabouts unknown.
Protesters gathered at his office Wednesday. One carried a sign that read: "Let the hunter be hunted!"
Palmer didn't respond to an email from The Associated Press on Wednesday.
THE LEGAL CASE
It's unclear whether Palmer will face legal consequences in Zimbabwe or the United States.
Police in Zimbabwe have said they are looking for him, but authorities there haven't filed charges and he isn't named as a suspect in court documents. The U.S. has an extradition agreement with Zimbabwe, so in theory he could be sent there to face the legal system if charges are filed.
In America, the Department of Justice said it is aware of the situation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it's ready to assist Zimbabwe in its investigation and it is conducting its own probe. The agency didn't elaborate, but when it comes to hunting abroad, the U.S. has authority over importing carcasses, or trophies.
In this case, wildlife authorities confiscated the trophy.
It's also possible Palmer could face an investigation into the status of his dental license if someone complains that his conduct was unbecoming of his profession.
Associated Press writers Farai Mutsaka in Harare, Zimbabwe; Jeff Baenen in Bloomington, Minnesota; and Mary Clare Jalonick and Richard Lardner in Washington contributed to this report. Bakst reported from St. Paul, Minnesota.