American dentist named as killer of Zimbabwe's most famous lion

Palmer with a leopard he shot in 2010
Palmer with a leopard he shot in 2010

An American dentist called Walter Palmer, from Minnesota, has been named as the man who killed Zimbabwe's famous lion, Cecil.

The animal is said to have been lured out of one of the countries largest national parks using bate.

It was then shot with a bow and arrow.

The initial shot failed to kill him so the wounded lion was tracked for two days and then killed with a rifle.

Cecil was one of the oldest lions at Hwange National Park and a fan favourite because of his striking looks, long black mane and friendly nature.

It emerged today that Palmer payed £35,000 to kill the lion.

A spokesperson for Mr Palmer told the Guardian newspaper: ‘As far as I understand, Walter believes that he might have shot that lion that has been referred to as Cecil.’

‘What he’ll tell you is that he had the proper legal permits and he had hired several professional guides, so he’s not denying that he may be the person who shot this lion. He is a big-game hunter; he hunts the world over.’

Walter James Palmer was identified today by both the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force and the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe as the American hunter, a name that police then confirmed.


"We arrested two people and now we are looking for Palmer in connection with the same case," said Charamba.

Emmanuel Fundira, the president of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, said at a news conference that Palmer was from Minnesota and his current whereabouts were unknown.

Palmer issued a statement saying he was unaware that the lion was so well known and part of a study.

Attempts to reach Palmer, 55, at his two listed home numbers and his office by phone and in person were unsuccessful.

Palmer, an avid hunter, pleaded guilty in 2008 to making false statements to the US Fish and Wildlife Service about a black bear he shot dead in western Wisconsin outside the authorised hunting zone, according to court documents.

Palmer with another trophy

The two arrested Zimbabwean men - a professional hunter and a farm owner - face poaching charges, the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority and the Safari Operators Association said in a joint statement.

Killing the lion was illegal because the farm owner did not have a hunting permit, the joint statement said. The lion was skinned and beheaded. The hunters tried to destroy the lion's collar, fitted with a tracking device, but failed, the statement said.

If convicted, the men face up to 15 years in prison.

The lion is believed to have been killed on July 1 in western Zimbabwe's wildlife-rich Hwange region, its carcass discovered days later by trackers, the statement said.

The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said in a statement that an American paid the 50,000 dollars for the hunt. During a night-time hunt, the men tied a dead animal to their car to lure the lion out of a national park, said Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force.

The American is believed to have shot it with a crossbow, injuring the animal. The wounded lion was found 40 hours later, and shot dead with a gun, Rodrigues said in the statement.

"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," said Rodrigues.

The Zimbabwean hunter accused in the case claimed that Cecil was not specifically targeted, and the group only learned after the fact that they had killed a well-known lion, according to the Safari Operators Association.

Cecil, recognisable by his black mane, was being studied by an Oxford University research programme, the conservation group said.

Tourists regularly spotted his characteristic mane in the park over the last 13 years, said Lion Aid, a conservation group.