Zimbabwe will not charge dentist in Cecil the lion hunt

Photo: http://www.mctdirect.com/preview.php?id=201509081120MCT_____PHOTO____US_NEWS_LIONHUNTER_3_MS

Zimbabwe will not charge dentist Walter Palmer for killing its most prized lion in July because he had obtained legal authority to conduct the hunt, a Cabinet minister told reporters in Africa on Monday.

“We approached the police and then the prosecutor general, and it turned out that Palmer came to Zimbabwe because all the papers were in order,” Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri told reporters, saying the dentist could not be charged. “The documents were there. We are now going to review how we issue hunting quotas.”

A spokesman for Palmer in the Twin Cities said Monday that the doctor would have nothing to say about the decision. Joe Friedberg, an attorney advising Palmer, said last month that he doubted the dentist would be charged in Zimbabwe. Friedberg was not immediately available for comment Monday.

Muchinguri-Kashiri said that Palmer can now safely return to Zimbabwe as a “tourist,” but not for hunting.

The minister’s decision caught members of Zimbabwe’s safari hunting industry off-guard.

“It is surprising because we have that important agenda to have our wildlife protected and that any bad behavior, whether it is by the operator or the visitor, is punished accordingly,” said Emmanuel Fundira, president of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe. Fundira said the decision also weakens the case against Palmer’s professional hunting guide, Theo Bronkhorst, and landowner Honest Trymore Ndlovu, on whose land Palmer shot the lion. Criminal charges were filed against both of those men and their cases are pending.

Bronkhorst’s lawyer, Givemore Mvhiringi, said he read about the decision on the Internet.

“If it is true then the Honorable Minister’s latest position dovetails with our position that Mr. Palmer and indeed our client Mr. Theo Bronkhorst had committed no offense as the hunt was above board and in terms of the existing laws of the country,” he told the Star Tribune by email.

Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said that while others “will bear (legal) responsibility for Cecil’s slaughter … we’re encouraged that Walter Palmer lost business, lost his reputation, and probably lost more in the bargain — while Cecil’s death sent a strong message to wildlife slayers that their days are numbered.”

Palmer, 55, had been away from his Bloomington practice and out of public view since late July, when a London newspaper revealed that the Eden Prairie resident killed Cecil the lion with a bow and arrow in what Zimbabwe authorities had alleged was an illegal hunt earlier in the summer. He has since returned to his practice.

The wife of President Robert Mugabe said in August that she doesn’t hold Palmer responsible.

A marksman and accomplished big-game hunter, Palmer reportedly paid $50,000 or so for the guided safari hunt outside of Hwange National Park. Authorities in Zimbabwe allege that the 13-year-old lion with the distinctive black mane was lured from the national park onto a neighboring farm.