Government trying to find hunter who killed Cecil the lion

Photo: CBS News

MINNEAPOLIS — The law enforcement arm of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says it’s trying to reach the Minnesota dentist who killed a protected lion while on a guided hunt in Zimbabwe.

In a statement Thursday, Fish & Wildlife Law Enforcement Deputy Chief Edward Grace re-iterated that the agency is investigating circumstances surrounding the death of lion, named Cecil.

Grace says multiple efforts to contact the dentist, Walter Palmer, were unsuccessful and “we ask that Dr. Palmer or his representative contact us immediately.”

Palmer hasn’t returned emails from The Associated Press. His office voicemail isn’t accepting messages and other listed phone numbers have busy signals.

On Wednesday, demonstrators gathered outside Palmer’s office to protest the lion’s killing. “Extradite Palmer! Extradite Palmer!” the angry protestors chanted. “He killed Cecil just because he wanted some skin and a head? That’s unreasonable,” said a 10-year-old protestor.

“I’ll be taking these pearly whites elsewhere,” said patient Ann Flood.

A public relations professional released a statement Tuesday from Palmer, who said he was with professional guides and thought the hunt was legal. The firm is no longer helping Palmer.

An attorney who represented Palmer in a prior case also has not returned messages.

An online petition calls for the extradition of Palmer. It has gained over 141,000 signatures which is over the necessary 100,000 in 30 days necessary to require a response from the government. The U.S. has an extradition treaty with Zimbabwe that could allow for this option if Palmer were criminally charged.

Laury Parramore a Senior Public Affairs Specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that Palmer could be charged if he attempted to take the “trophy” outside of the country.

Currently the lion has been confiscated in Zimbabwe, but that would be one possible violation that could make the hunt itself illegal.

According to Zimbabwe authorities, Palmer paid wildlife guides a possible $55,000 to help lure and kill the lion. The Travel Act forbids foreign travel with intent to engage in unlawful activities overseas which would include bribery.

A bribery violation under the Travel Act is punishable by up to five years in the U.S. and by many years in Zimbabwe.

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