Zimbabwe is no longer pressing for the extradition of James Walter Palmer, the United States dentist who killed a well-known lion called Cecil, a cabinet minister has said.
Palmer had been the subject of extradition talk in Zimbabwe and a target of protests in the US, particularly in Minnesota, where he has a dental practise, after he was identified as the man who killed the lion in a bow hunt.
Palmer can now safely return to Zimbabwe as a “tourist” because he had not broken the southern African country’s hunting laws, Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri told reporters in Harare on Monday.
“He is free to come, not for hunting, but as a tourist,” Muchinguri-Kashiri said.
“It turned out that Palmer came to Zimbabwe because all the papers were in order.”
Zimbabwe’s police and the National Prosecuting Authority had cleared Palmer of wrongdoing, she said.
Through an adviser, Palmer declined to comment.
Cecil, a resident of Hwange National Park in western Zimbabwe, was well-known to tourists and researchers for his distinctive black mane.
Muchinguri-Kashiri had said in July that Zimbabwean police and prosecutors would work to get Palmer returned to Zimbabwe to face poaching charges.
Messages left Monday with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which was handling a US investigation into Palmer, were not immediately returned.
Theo Bronkhorst, a Zimbabwean professional hunter who was a guide for Palmer, returned to court last week on charges of allowing an illegal hunt. His lawyer Perpetua Dube argued that the charges are too vague and should be dropped.