Cecil the lion: Walter Palmer blames local guides in Zimbabwe for the scandal

Walter James Palmer is now wanted by officials in Zimbabwe

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The Independent US

The Minnesota doctor accused of illegally killing a famed lion in Zimbabwe is blaming local guides for the incident.

Walter James Palmer of Eden Prairie has been named by the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force as the shooter of Cecil, a 13-year-old prized lion. He’s now wanted by Zimbabwe officials on poaching charges.

The lion was protected and the subject of a decade-long study by the Wildlife Unit of Oxford University in England. He was outfitted with a GPS collar and was killed in Hwange National Park. Two men have been charged with poaching the animal in connection to Mr Palmer, Zimbabwe's National Parks and Wildlife Authority announced on Tuesday.

Mr Palmer is now claiming he had no prior knowledge of the lion's protection and says that he will fully cooperate with officials in the ongoing investigation.

"I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt."

"I have not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the U.S. about this situation, but will assist them in any inquiries they may have. "Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion."

In 2008, Mr Palmer pleaded guilty to making false statements to the US Fish and Wildlife Service after he illegally shot and killed a black bear in Wisconsin. He initially faced five years in prison and was sentenced to one year’s probation with a $3,000 fine.

Meanwhile, activists and proponents for animal rights expressed their grief and concern after the killing.

Jessica Johnson, a spokesperson for PETA, sent The Independent the following statement from President Ingrid Newkirk.

Hunting is a coward's pastime. If, as has been reported, this dentist and his guides lured Cecil out of the park with food so as to shoot him on private property, because shooting him in the park would have been illegal, he needs to be extradited, charged, and, preferably, hanged.  To get a thrill at the cost of a life, this man gunned down a beloved lion, Cecil with a high-powered weapon.

All wild animals are beloved by their own mates and infants, but to hunters like this overblown, over-privileged little man, who lack empathy, understanding, and respect for living creatures, they are merely targets to kill, decapitate, and hang up on a wall as a trophy. The photograph of this dentist, smiling over the corpse of another animal, who, like Cecil, wanted only to be left in peace, will disgust every caring soul in the world.