American dentist Walter Palmer who killed Cecil the lion on a bow-hunt in Zimbabwe earlier this year will not be prosecuted by the Zimbabwean authorities. This announcement was made on Monday by Zimbabwe's Minister of Environment, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri.
No matter how much outrage people across the globe feel towards Palmer in that he enjoys big game hunting, the act of killing a lion where and when he did, was not illegal in Zimbabwe at the time.
Zimbabwe has a number of large hunting concession areas, including private land, state land and lands that fall under tribal authorities. Many of these concession areas border protected land like the Hwange Game Reserve.
The fact that a beloved collared lion was killed does not mean that the Zimbabwean government can prosecute Palmer without thoroughly reviewing whether he actually broke any law of the country. The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Act 1975, as read with other Regulations are the governing regulations pertaining to wildlife and hunting activities.
In Zimbabwe the hunting operator is liable for obtaining all permits. When a hunting client enters the country to hunt, it is up to the operator to ensure all paper work is completed and that all equipment used is within legal boundaries. The hunting operator has to be fully licensed. It takes years of understudy and exams to qualify as a pro-hunter in Zimbabwe. This is because the hunter needs to be able to interpret the law. It is the responsibility of the guide to ensure that his client is not violating any of the laws of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwean authorities have established that Palmer did have the necessary permit to shoot a lion. It has been alleged that Cecil was baited out the National Park into the area where he was shot. If this was done it would not have been Palmer who did it. The guide would have arranged it with his own staff.
There is some dispute as to whether the land owner had the required permits to allow the hunt to take place on his land, but this was not the concern of Palmer. This was an issue that should have been covered by Bronkhorst the professional hunter guide.
It is illegal to hunt lions at night in Zimbabwe. If there is any question of ethics regarding the killing of Cecil, it lies in the fact that a hunter allowed his client to take a shot at an animal close to sunset. Night in Zimbabwe is defined as being that period of time one half hour before sunset until one hour after dawn the following day. Cecil was shot at outside of that time period which technically means he was killed during the day which is lawful. Palmer cannot be prosecuted just because he and his guide demonstrated poor hunting ethics.
To non-hunters, the concept of trophy killing is an atrocity. Hunting with a bow and arrow is one of the crueller ways a hunter can kill an animal. It is seldom that a single arrow will take down a large animal. Walter Palmer is only one of about 3.2 million registered bow hunters.
It is very difficult for animal lovers to understand how people can choose to kill with a weapon that will cause hours of pain and torture to an animal. The Organisation, In Defense of Animals quotes a hunting book where the advice given to hunters, is that they should wait while the animal dies. The book says that whilst the hunter waits he should "Just hang back and have a smoke".
Palmer seems to be genuinely surprised that world opinion is so strongly against what he did. He appears to feel his explanation that if he had known about the collar he would not have shot Cecil, should suffice. For millions of anti-animal cruelty supporters this will not be accepted as a justifiable explanation. Palmer stands at the tip of a media-created pyramid that is bolstered by a worldwide network of animal lovers. It is time to start digging away at the base of the hunting community that this single man has come to represent.