Zimbabwe Wants Lion-Killing Dentist Extradited

Photo: Adam Bettcher/Getty Images
Update: Refinery29 spoke to Bruce Zagaris, a lawyer and extradition expert in Washington, D.C., about the likelihood of Walter Palmer being extradited to stand trial for the killing of Cecil. Zagaris said it is still too early to tell.

"The question is: What are the charges that would be filed against him, are they extraditable, and is the Zimbabwean government capable of doing it in a way that is going to support a claim of extradition?" Zagaris told Refinery29.

Zagaris explained that, when legitimate cases for extradition have been made by other countries in the past, the U.S. has a strong record of turning over those individuals to face charges. Extraditions are often thwarted by skillful arguments from the individual's lawyer, not by deficiencies in United States law, Zagaris added.

Zagaris believes that the bilateral extradition treaty between the United States and Zimbabwe will be helpful in this case, calling the agreement "fairly modern" and "a good sign."

This story was originally published on July 31, 2015.

The government of Zimbabwe wants the United States to extradite Walter Palmer, the Minnesota-based dentist who paid $50,000 to illegally kill one of the country's most beloved lions. Palmer himself is reportedly in hiding after a photo surfaced of him grinning behind the carcass of Cecil the lion in early July.

Oppah Muchinguri, Zimbabwe's environment, water, and climate minister, told reporters that her country is "appealing to the responsible authorities for [Palmer's] extradition to Zimbabwe so that he [can] be made accountable."

The United States and Zimbabwe have had a bilateral extradition treaty in place since 1997. Such an agreement means that, should the United States find Palmer's shooting Cecil in violation of its laws (he already broke Zimbabwe's), Palmer may, in fact, be sent back to Africa to stand trial.

In the United States, there is strong support for Palmer's extradition. A White House petition calling for Secretary of State John Kerry and Attorney General Loretta Lynch to cooperate with the extradition request accumulated over 150,000 signatures in fewer than four days. The petition's goal was originally 100,000.

Protestors also hung signs and left stuffed animals outside Palmer's shuttered dental practice in Bloomington, MN on Wednesday. "Palmer, there's a deep cavity waiting for you," one sign read. Conservationists, celebrities, and animal-lovers alike have taken to social media to condemn Palmer.

Cecil was a 13-year-old father to six cubs and the subject of an ongoing study for Oxford University. In order to kill Cecil, Palmer and his guides reportedly lured the lion out of his protected home in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park. Palmer then wounded Cecil using a bow and arrow, and eventually tracked him down and shot him. Palmer's group then left Cecil's skinless, headless body in the park. To date, the lion's head has not been recovered.

The United States has historically complied with only a few extradition requests like this. Still, the public outrage over the killing of this majestic animal may force the U.S. to reconsider and send Palmer to answer for his crime.
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