THE US dentist who slaughtered Zimbabwe’s most beloved lion has surfaced to contact authorities after going in to hiding when news broke of the illegal hunt.
Walter Palmer went into hiding after it became known that he had lured Cecil the lion out of his Hwange National Park sanctuary and shot him with a crossbow.
Zimbabwe has said it wants to extradite Palmer to face poaching charges.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service, who are investigating the alleged poaching had already made “multiple efforts” to contact the Minnesota dentist, said in a statement posted on Twitter they had been “voluntarily contacted by a rep of Dr Palmer”.
The development came as Palmer’s hunting guide said the killing of the lion hadn’t been enough to satisfy the dentist’s bloodlust, claiming he had wanted to kill “a very large elephant” just after taking down Cecil.
“I told him I would not be able to find one so big, so the client left the next day,” Theo Bronkhorst, founder of Bushman Safaris Zimbabwe, told The Telegraph.
US politicians on Friday introduced legislation that would prevent the kinds of controversial hunting that brought down Cecil.
Senate Democrat Robert Menendez’s bill would expand the import-export restrictions of the 1973 Endangered Species Act to include animals that are not just listed as endangered or threatened, but those that are “proposed to be listed” as such.
“Let’s not be cowardly lions when it comes to trophy killings,” Senator Menendez said on Friday, calling Cecil’s demise “senseless.”
Speaking for the first time since word of Cecil’s illegal slaughter garnered international headlines, Bronkhorst insisted they were never meant to hunt on the farm where the bloodthirsty 55-year-old dentist killed Cecil.
“At the last minute, I had to divert from a concession [hunting area] about eight miles away,” he told the newspaper.
Bronkhorst said they went hunting with his son, Zane, and a scout sent by farm owner Honest Ndlovu.
“We set off quite late, with the sun down, and found the carcass of an elephant which we dragged and moved into the long grass and used for bait,” he said.
First, they saw a lioness slink past them, then the 13-year-old Cecil appeared behind her.
“He was a magnificent animal,” Bronkhorst said. “The client then fired using a bow and arrow, and it went away into the long grass. This was about 10 p.m.”
They weren’t entirely sure the beast had been taken down, but they returned the next morning to search for him.
“We found it and it was wounded, and the client then shot it, with his bow and arrow, and killed it,” Bronkhorst explained.
The hunting party was “devastated” to discover that Cecil was wearing a GPS collar, he insisted.
But instead of turning it in to authorities, Bronkhorst said, he “panicked,” taking the tracking device off and putting it in a tree.
They kept Cecil’s head and skin because Palmer had already ponied up $50,000 to shoot a lion and earn his trophy, he added.
“I went to Parks and reported what had happened,” the guide told The Telegraph.
“I wish I had taken the collar.”
Bronkhorst, charged with conducting an illegal hunt, was released Wednesday on $1,000 bail. He insisted he had no idea Cecil was a protected lion.
Additional reporting by Janel Klein