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