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Cecil the lion: No charges for Walter Palmer, says Zimbabwe

Walter Palmer and Cecil the lionEPA/Facebook Walter Palmer faced a huge backlash online over his killing of Cecil the lion

The US dentist who sparked an international outcry after killing a lion in Zimbabwe will not be prosecuted because he had obtained the legal authority to hunt, officials say.

Walter Palmer admitted to killing Cecil the lion in July but has always denied that he acted illegally.

Zimbabwe’s Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri said he could not be charged as all his “papers were in order”.

Mrs Muchinguri said Zimbabwe would now review how it issues hunting licences.

The environment minister had previously called for Mr Palmer to be extradited and face prosecution. However, it appears that Mr Palmer broke no laws when he killed the lion using a bow and arrow.

“We approached the police and then the Prosecutor General, and it turned out that [Walter] Palmer came to Zimbabwe because all the papers were in order,” Mrs Muchinguru said.

Meanwhile the trial against Mr Palmer’s Zimbabwean guide, Theo Bronkhurst, is due to continue on Thursday.

Mr Bronkhurst denies the charge of “failing to prevent an illegal hunt”.


Cecil the lion

Cecil the lion pictured in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park - 21 October 2012Image copyrightAFP
  • A major tourist attraction in Hwange National Park
  • The 13-year-old animal was renowned for being friendly towards visitors
  • Recognisable because of his large size and distinctive black mane
  • Led two prides containing six lionesses and 12 cubs along with another lion, Jericho
  • Was being monitored as part of an Oxford University study into lion conservation

After his name was revealed by the press, Mr Palmer’s dentistry practice and home were targeted by protesters. He has now returned to work after a two-month break.

The 55-year-old is believed to have paid $50,000 (£32,000) to hunt the lion in Zimbabwe’s largest game reserve.

Protesters rally outside the dental clinic run by Walter Palmer in Minnesota - 30 July 2015Image copyrightReuters
Image captionWalter Palmer faced protests after killing Cecil the lion
The vandalised garage at the Florida holiday home of American dentist Walter Palmer - 4 August 2015Image copyrightAP
Image captionIn July, vandals spray-painted “lion killer” on the garage of Mr Palmer’s holiday home in Florida

Speaking publicly for the first time about the incident last month, he told the Associated Press and Minneapolis Star Tribune that if he had known who the animal was he would not have killed it.

“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,” Mr Palmer said. “Nobody in our hunting party knew before or after the name of this lion.”

Mr Palmer also revealed that his wife and daughter had faced intimidation.

“They’ve been threatened in the social media, and again… I don’t understand that level of humanity to come after people not involved at all,” he said.

An avid hunter who had previously visited Zimbabwe four times, Mr Palmer did not rule out returning to the country,

“I don’t know about the future,” he said.

“Zimbabwe has been a wonderful country for me to hunt in, and I have always followed the laws.”