Rocker Ted Nugent has defended a dentist who killed a protected lion in Zimbabwe, as the country seeks his extradition from the US.
In an interview with the Rita Cosby Show on WABC radio in New York, Nugent, 66, an outspoken advocate for hunting, railed against people who were upset about the killing, saying the outrage was because the lion was given a name, Cecil.
He said getting upset about Cecil but not other lions was “disingenuous and tragically dishonest”.
Nugent said he did not believe the account of Zimbabwean conservationists who said Walter Palmer, of Minnesota, allegedly shot the lion with a bow after it was lured on to private land with an animal carcass laid out on a car.
They say that some 40 hours later the wounded cat was tracked down and Mr Palmer, 55, apparently killed it with a gun.
In the Zimbabwean government’s first official comment on the killing, the environment, water and climate minister lashed out at Mr Palmer, accusing him of trying to hurt the country’s image.
“Unfortunately it was too late to apprehend the foreign poacher as he had already absconded to his country of origin,” Oppah Muchinguri told a news conference. “We are appealing to the responsible authorities for his extradition to Zimbabwe so that he be made accountable.
“There has been an outcry. Almost 500,000 people are calling for his extradition and we need this support. We want him tried in Zimbabwe because he violated our laws.”
She did not explain the 500,000 but there are online petitions demanding Mr Palmer’s extradition.
“I have already consulted with the authorities within the police force who are responsible for arresting the criminal. We have certain processes we have to follow,” she said at the offices of the national parks and wildlife authority.
“Police should take the first step to approach the prosecutor general who will approach the Americans. The processes have already started.”
Mr Palmer issued a statement on Tuesday saying he relied on his guides to ensure the hunt was legal. Two Zimbabweans – a professional hunter and a farm owner – have been arrested over the killing of the lion, an act which has garnered worldwide condemnation.
Professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst.
Mr Palmer has kept a low profile, but on Friday US federal wildlife authorities said they have been contacted by a representative of the dentist.
A State Department official said that, as far as the department knows, the United States had not extradited anyone to the Republic of Zimbabwe since the extradition treaty with the United States took effect in 2000, nor had Zimbabwe extradited anyone to the United States.
The killing of Cecil gained global attention as the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution aimed at combating illegal wildlife trafficking and poaching, the culmination of a two-year campaign led by Gabon and Germany.
“We very much welcome the decision by the General Assembly which will help in the protection of wildlife, of fauna and flora,” Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, said.
The US embassy in Zimbabwe said it did not comment on extradition matters and the Zimbabwe embassy in Washington said it had yet to receive instructions.
“We are trying other avenues,” said Richard Chibuwe, the deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Washington. “Seeking extradition would be the last resort.”
Muchinguri accused Palmer of “a well-orchestrated agenda which would tarnish the image of Zimbabwe and further strain the relationship between Zimbabwe and the USA”.
Zimbabwe and the United States have often sparred over the years. The southern African country has blamed its economic woes on US sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and close associates, though many commentators have attributed Zimbabwe’s economic decline to mismanagement.
Washington imposed the penalties on Zimbabwe because of human rights concerns. More broadly, Mugabe has long railed against what he calls Western meddling in Africa, saying it is an extension of the colonial rule of the past.
Authorities seeking Palmer’s extradition have described him as an accomplice to the illegal hunt. But they have not specified what charges might be laid against him, meaning it is unclear what penalty he could face if he is tried and convicted.
Bronkhorst was released on bail after appearing in court in Hwange, about 435 miles west of the capital Harare. If convicted he faces up to 15 years in prison.
Mr Palmer is a dentist in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington. In a note to his patients, he wrote: “I understand and respect that not everyone shares the same views on hunting.” He said he would resume his dental practice “as soon as possible”.
The lion’s head, which was severed by the hunters, has been confiscated by the wildlife authorities, according to Director of National Parks and Wildlife Edson Chidziya.
He added that there had been no reports so far of Cecil’s many cubs being killed by rival male lions, as often happens when the alpha male in a pride dies.
“We believe the cubs are still out there in the bush,” he said, adding that no rescue missions were planned.