Dr. Walter Palmer, the Eden Prairie big-game hunter who is feeling the heat for killing a prized lion in Zimbabwe with a bow and arrow, has an ally in the first lady of the African nation.
Grace Mugabe said everyone should back off the Twin Cities dentist because he did not know the prominence of the lion he was killing.
According to the state-operated ZBC, the first lady told a rally in northern Zimbabwe that “the people of Zimbabwe who allowed [Palmer] to kill the lion are to blame.”
The wife of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe continued: “The dentist who killed the lion must be left alone. [He] was not aware of the importance of Cecil.”
Grace Mugabe holds no official post with the government, leaving it uncertain whether her comments last week about Cecil’s death would hold sway with her nation’s legal authorities. Robert Mugabe has said that Zimbabweans are responsible for Cecil’s death because they failed to protect him.
Palmer, 55, has acknowledged that he killed Cecil during a hunt in early July. A guide and a landowner who were with him during the kill have been charged in Zimbabwe. The dentist has yet to be charged.
Zimbabwe wants the U.S. extradite him. U.S. officials said they have begun their own investigation but have not responded to the extradition request.
Palmer, other than issuing a statement soon after the incident, has remained quiet and out of sight. He has said he relied on the guide to conduct a legal hunt.
Cecil’s killing unleashed a torrent of anger around the globe. Some airlines are now refusing to ship certain game killed on safari hunts, Palmer’s Bloomington dentist office was targeted by protesters and shut down for a brief period, and his south Florida vacation home was vandalized with graffiti and pigs’ feet made to appear bloody.