EDEN PRAIRIE., Minnesota — An avid Minnesota hunter accused of illegally killing a protected lion in Zimbabwe says he believed everything about his trip was legal.
Walter Palmer released a statement Tuesday saying he hired professional guides for his Zimbabwe bow-hunting trip and had no idea “until the end of the hunt” that the lion was a well-known animal being studied.
Palmer, a suburban Minneapolis dentist, says he regrets the hunt resulted in the lion’s death.
Authorities in Zimbabwe say he’s facing poaching charges. Palmer says he hasn’t been contacted by U.S. or Zimbabwean authorities.
In the U.S., Palmer has a 2008 federal conviction related to shooting a black bear in Wisconsin. Court documents say he had a permit but shot a bear outside an authorized zone, then tried to pass it off as being killed elsewhere.
CNN reported that Cecil, who was 13, was a prized lion in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, where visitors reportedly sighted him frequently. A video of the animal, regal, indifferent and sleepy-eyed, has been widely disseminated.
He was a participant in a study that Oxford University in Britain was conducting, and he had been outfitted with a GPS collar.
A police official in Zimbabwe said that two Zimbabweans had been arrested in the case and that police were looking for Palmer.
An alleged $50,000 payment
The Zimbabweans, Honest Trymore Ndlovu and Theo Bronchorst, were due in court Wednesday, according to a statement from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe. Bronchorst is a professional hunter, the statement said.
Rodrigues asserted that Palmer was an American and gave his passport number and street address, but police were more vague. Charity Charamba, a Zimbabwe police spokeswoman, told CNN that police were seeking Palmer, “who might be an American or a Spaniard.”
The allegation is that the lion was killed illegally, Charamba said.
Calls to an office number for Walter J. Palmer in Bloomington, Minnesota, about a six-minute drive from the home address given by Rodrigues, went unanswered Tuesday. The messaging mailbox was full.
Rodrigues said that Palmer “apparently paid $50,000 for the kill and we assume Theo Bronchorst received this money.”
Wounded, then tracked for another 40 hours
Cecil’s death was cruel, in Rodrigues’ account.
On July 6, Rodigrues said, Bronchorst took Palmer to Hwange National Park.
“They went hunting at night with a spotlight, and they spotted Cecil,” Rodrigues said. “They tied a dead animal to their vehicle to lure Cecil out of the park, and they scented an area about half a kilometer from the park,” or about 550 yards.
Rodrigues said that Palmer shot Cecil with an arrow but failed to kill him. Then the two men tracked Cecil, finding him about 40 hours later and shooting him to death with a gun, Rodrigues said.
They discovered that he had been fitted with a GPS collar and tried to destroy it, Rodrigues said.
Cecil was skinned and beheaded, Rodrigues said. Contrary to earlier reports, he said, the head has not been found.
“The saddest part of all is that, now that Cecil is dead, the next lion in the hierarchy, Jericho will most likely kill all Cecil’s cubs so that he can insert his own bloodline into the females,” Rodrigues said. “This is standard procedure for lions.”