Zimbabwe’s Environment Minister, Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri, says American national, Walter James Palmer, who killed the country’s most famous lion called Cecil, should be extradited to the African nation to face charges of poaching.
Minister Muchinguri Kashiri told a news conference in Harare today that the country is devastated about the killing of the lion.
She said Zimbabwe have started the process of extraditing Walter James Palmer from the United States to face poaching related charges.
Muchinguri Kashiri, who described the Minnesota dentist as a “foreign poacher”, said Palmer should be brought to Zimbabwe to face justice over the issue that has attracted international interest.
She said Palmer's use of a bow and arrow against Cecil was in contravention of Zimbabwean hunting regulations.
The minister said the killing of Cecil the Lion was well choreographed to taint the country’s image, adding that this has worsened relations between Harare and Washington.
President Robert Mugabe’s administration is accused by Washington and the rest of the international community of engaging in bad human rights practices and rigging elections – a charge that Harare denies.
Top human rights lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, said it would be difficult for the U.S government to release its citizen to face a trial in Zimbabwe given the hostilities between Harare and Washington over the country’s poor human rights record.
Two Zimbabwean men have been implicated in the killing of the lion.
A professional hunter, Theo Bronchorst, has been charged with failing to prevent an illegal hunt - which he denies - and prosecutors are deciding on the exact charges the landowner, Trymore Honest Ndlovu, should face.
A bilateral extradition treaty between the US and Zimbabwe has been in effect since 1997 in cases where an individual is charged with what would be a criminal offence in both countries.
The American Embassy in Harare says it is aware that a U.S citizen was involved in the death of Cecil the Lion. It could not shed light on palmer’s fate.
Muchinguri Kashiri’s call comes at a time when the White House is facing mounting pressure to extradite Palmer to Zimbabwe as 160,000 people have signed a petition demanding justice for the killing of the famous lion.
A White House spokesman has already said the Obama administration will respond to the petition, which it must to do within 60 days.
At the same time, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service said yesterday it was investigating the illegal killing of the lion by the Minnesota dentist and whether any U.S laws were broken.