Lion hunted, shot, skinned and be­headed ... but rich Amer­i­can killer says that’s OK ‘ cause he thought it was le­gal

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - BRIAN BAKST AMY FOR­L­ITI

AN avid Amer­i­can hunter ac­cused of il­le­gally killing a pro­tected lion in Zim­babwe said yesterday that he thought ev­ery­thing about his trip was le­gal and wasn’t aware of the an­i­mal’s sta­tus “un­til the end of the hunt”.

Wal­ter Palmer, who has a felony record in the US in re­la­tion to the shoot­ing of a black bear in Wis­con­sin, re­leased his state­ment through a public re­la­tions firm af­ter be­ing iden­ti­fied by Zim­bab­wean author­i­ties as the Amer­i­can in­volved in the July hunt.

The lion he killed was a 1 3 - y e a r - o l d male named Ce­cil ( be­low) who was the face of Zim­bab­wean tourism, had a lit­ter of cubs and was both col­lared and GPS­tracked be­cause he was part of a re­search pro­ject.

The men who helped Mr Palmer kill Ce­cil lured the lion out of a na­tional park us­ing bait. Mr Palmer shot the an­i­mal with a bow and arrow and fol­lowed the wounded crea­ture for two days be­fore shoot­ing Ce­cil with a gun.

Ce­cil was then skinned and be­headed – pre­sum­ably so his body could be a tro­phy. His cubs are ex­pected to be killed by other male lions want­ing to mate with Ce­cil’s fe­males.

Zim­bab­wean author­i­ties said Mr Palmer was be­ing sought on poach­ing charges, but Mr Palmer said he hadn’t heard from US or Zim­bab­wean author­i­ties.

“I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, lo­cal favourite, was col­lared and part of a study un­til the end of the hunt. I re­lied on the ex­per­tise of my lo­cal pro­fes­sional guides to en­sure a le­gal hunt,” said Palmer, a den­tist who lives in Min­neapo­lis.

Ac­cord­ing to US court records, Mr Palmer pleaded guilty in 2008 to mak­ing false state­ments to the US Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice about a black bear he fa­tally shot in western Wis­con­sin. Mr Palmer had a per­mit to hunt but shot the an­i­mal out­side the au­tho­rised zone in 2006, then tried to pass it off as be­ing killed else­where, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments. He was given one year pro­ba­tion and fined nearly $ 3000.

Doug Kel­ley, a for­mer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor and Mr Palmer’s at­tor­ney in the bear case, was un­avail­able for com­ment yesterday.

Zim­bab­wean con­ser­va­tion­ists said he al­legedly paid $ 50,000 for the trip.

Mr Palmer’s where­abouts were un­known yesterday but the web­site of his den­tal surgery and his own web­site had been shut down af­ter more than 100,000 tweets protest­ing the killing had been logged as news of what he had done went global.

In a fur­ther state­ment, Mr Palmer said he “deeply re­gret­ted” hav­ing killed a well­known an­i­mal but gave no apol­ogy about be­ing in Africa to hunt a lion.

The state­ment also said Mr Palmer trusted his two lo­cal guides to make sure the killing was le­gal.

BIG NEWS: US hunter Wal­ter Palmer ( right) pos­ing with a dead ele­phant dur­ing a pre­vi­ous hunt.

John Kerry.

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