According to reports, the man who shot a famous Zimbabwean lion named Cecil wasn’t a mysterious Spanish hunter at all—it was a wealthy American dentist named Walter Palmer with a history of breaking laws in his hunt for paws.
Palmer reportedly has a habit of paying big money to hunt big game: a 2009 New York Times profile notes the father-of-two routinely drops tens of thousands of dollars to shoot wild animals—sometimes legally, sometimes not.
As the season began, Palmer was completing a year of probation. In 2008, court records show, he pleaded guilty to making a false statement to federal wildlife officials concerning the exact location of the slaying of a black bear during a guided hunt in Wisconsin. In his sentencing order, prosecutors had specifically agreed that the “defendant shall be permitted to possess archery equipment for lawful sporting purposes.”
And authorities are saying Palmer might be making a habit of skirting the law in furtherance of his bloody extracurricular activities.
“They went hunting at night with a spotlight and they spotted Cecil,” Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force spokesman Johnny Rodrigues tells the Guardian. “They tied a dead animal to their vehicle to lure Cecil out of the park and they scented an area about half a kilometre from the park.”
(He’s also accused of bribing a guide and removing Cecil’s GPS collar, a violation of park rules.)
Already two people have been arrested on poaching charges since Cecil’s body was found decapitated and skinned a few miles outside the park earlier this month.
“As far as I understand, Walter believes that he might have shot that lion that has been referred to as Cecil,” his spokesman tells the Guardian. “What he’ll tell you is that he had the proper legal permits and he had hired several professional guides, so he’s not denying that he may be the person who shot this lion. He is a big-game hunter; he hunts the world over.”