MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) says that if a Minnesota hunter did indeed illegally kill a beloved lion in Zimbabwe, he should be "extradited, charged, and, preferably, hanged."
The comment from the group, which is known for its graphic undercover videos of factory farms and racy pro-vegan displays, comes after authorities in Zimbabwe said Tuesday that they're looking for Dr. Walter Palmer, a dentist and trophy hunter who lives in Eden Prairie.
Palmer, 55, reportedly paid around $50,000 to track and kill a lion just outside Hwange Park, the largest game reserve in Zimbabwe. Officials there say Palmer and his guides lured, killed and beheaded a protected lion named Cecil, known for his black mane and his star-status among tourists.
The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force says that in early July Palmer and his guides baited Cecil, a 13-year-old collared lion part of an Oxford University study, out of the park's protection by tying a dead animal to a car in the night. They say Palmer shot the lion with a crossbow, but didn't deliver a fatal blow. The lion was killed 40 hours later with a gun and then decapitated.
Authorities in Zimbabwe say Palmer is being sought on poaching charges. Meanwhile, the dentist, who practices in Bloomington, says he hasn't heard from authorities in the U.S. or in Zimbabwe. In a statement, Palmer said he had "no idea" he killed a famous lion and, to his knowledge, everything about the hunt was in order.
PETA is calling him and other hunters "overblown, over-privileged" men who "lack empathy, understanding, and respect for living creatures."
"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," the group's statement said.
PETA wasn't the only organization to speak out against Palmer and the practice of trophy hunting. The Humane Society of the United States called Palmer "a morally deadened human being."
In a blog post, the group highlighted the decline of world lion populations and fumed over how some hunters will flock to kill animals whenever officials talk about protecting them under the law.
"Sadly, Cecil's story is not unique – American hunters kill hundreds of African lions each year and are contributing to the steady decline of the species," the blog post read.
It ended with a note saying the group is asking U.S. officials to consider upgrading the legal status of lions and barring people from traveling to Africa to bring back trophies.
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