James Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who admitted to killing Cecil the lion, will no longer face extradition to Zimbabwe, an environment minister said Monday.
Palmer is welcome to visit Zimbabwe as a “tourist,” but not as a hunter, Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri told reporters, because he didn’t violate the African country’s hunting laws.
“It tuned out that Palmer came to Zimbabwe because all the papers were in order,” she said.
Palmer attracted online ire when he it was revealed in July that he paid more than $50,000 to hunt and kill the 13-year-old black-maned lion who lived in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.
Two people who helped lure Cecil outside the protected park still face charges related to the killing.
When details of Cecil’s death caught global attention, Muchinguri-Kashiri called Palmer a “foreign poacher” and said he should extradited to Zimbabwe “so that he can be held accountable for his illegal actions.” Monday’s announcement, instead, cleared Palmer of any crime.
Palmer told the Associated Press and the Star Tribune in September that he had been to Zimbabwe four times for hunts and didn’t know Cecil was beloved in the park.
“Zimbabwe has been a wonderful country for me to hunt in, and I have always followed the laws.”
Palmer temporarily halted his dental practice when protesters gathered outside his office to leave memorials and chant with signs. Online, people attacked Palmer with one-star Yelp reviews laced with profanities.
Palmer told the AP that he, and especially his daughter and wife, felt threatened by the response.
“I don’t understand that level of humanity to come after people not involved at all,” he said.