HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe prosecutors Thursday are still trying to figure out how to charge one of the suspects in the killing of Cecil the lion by an American dentist that has outraged animal lovers.
Walter James Palmer, who has kept a low profile in the face of protests at his clinic, is being sought for questioning by Zimbabwe authorities but according to the U.S. embassy in the capital Harare, there is no information about any extradition request.
Farm owner Honest Ndlovu was named as an accomplice and appeared in court Wednesday, but unlike professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst, he was not charged.
“We are still waiting for the state to charge him as no formal charges have yet to be laid against my client,” his lawyer Tonderai Mukuku told Associated Press. “The Hwange office said it is liaising with the Harare office together with the police to come up with an appropriate charge. Maybe next week.”
The Zimbabwean men were accused of aiding Palmer, who reportedly paid $50,000 to track and kill a lion. According to charges, the lion was not on the list to be killed. The country’s safari organization also said the way in which he was lured out of a national park was unethical and possibly illegal.
According to the Zimbabwe Conservation task force, during the nighttime hunt, the Zimbabwean men tied a dead animal to their car to draw the lion out of a national park.
Palmer is believed to have then shot the lion with a bow. The wounded cat was then tracked for 40 hours before Palmer killed him with a gun. Court documents said Bronkhorst was supervising when it was killed.
If convicted, Bronkhorst faces up to 15 years in prison, but court documents made no mention of Palmer as a suspect.
Using bait to lure the lion is deemed unethical by the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, of which Bronkhorst is a member. The association has since revoked his license.
Cecil was being studied by an Oxford University research program.
Palmer, 55, wrote about the situation in a note to his patients. “I understand and respect that not everyone shares the same views on hunting,” he wrote in the letter, which added that he would “resume normal operations as soon as possible.”
Social media were filled with condemnation of the killing just outside Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. On Twitter, the hashtag cecilthelion was in wide use.
A couple of hundred protesters gathered Wednesday outside Palmer’s office with signs, including one that said, “Let the hunter be hunted!”
According to U.S. court records, Palmer pleaded guilty in 2008 to making false statements to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about a black bear he fatally shot in western Wisconsin.
Cecil is believed to have been killed July 1 and his carcass discovered days later.
Associated Press writers Brian Bakst, Amy Forliti and Jeff Baenen in Minneapolis and Hannah Cushman in Chicago contributed to this report.