ZIMBABWE- Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist and big-game hunter who killed Cecil the Lion while on a July hunting expedition, won’t face charges in the beloved big cat’s death, a Zimbabwean minister said Monday.
There has already been ample publicity surrounding the lion’s death, said the country’s minister of environment, water and climate, Opa Muchinguri.
“If you talk to him, tell him that tourists are welcome here,” she said. “No hunting, though.”
Palmer and his family faced threats and saw worldwide protests unfold, including demonstrations outside his Bloomington office after the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force reported that Cecil was lured out of Hwange National Park and shot with a compound bow.
Cecil lived another 40 hours until the hunters tracked him down and shot him with a gun, the conservation group said. He was then skinned and beheaded.
The hunters also tried to destroy the GPS collar that Cecil was wearing as part of a research project backed by Oxford University, according to the conservation group.
Palmer said in interviews with The Associated Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he couldn’t see the collar because it was buried beneath Cecil’s mane. He also said that it was not illegal to kill a collared lion.
Social media took aim under the hashtag #WalterPalmer. “A poor excuse of a human being,” “a killer” and “Satan” were just a few of the Twitter insults hurled in his direction. A Facebook page devoted to shaming Palmer still has more than 17,000 members.
Celebrities such as model Cara Delevingne, actress Alyssa Milano and TV host Sharon Osbourne — who have a combined total of 8.39 million followers — joined in as well.
“I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt,” Palmer said in a statement in late July. “I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.”
Palmer disappeared for a spell and shuttered his office, River Bluff Dental, as he weathered the storm of criticism and threats. He returned to work last month.
Two Zimbabweans have been charged in the case, and before Monday, officials there had said they wanted Palmer extradited to face charges.
The 55-year-old dentist had indicated that he’d cooperate, although he said he had yet to be contacted by anyone about the investigation.
Cecil’s killing apparently was not the first time Palmer landed into trouble while hunting. A man with the same name and age, and from the same town, illegally killed a black bear in Wisconsin several years ago, according to court documents.
That individual pleaded guilty to making false statements knowingly to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was sentenced to one year on probation and ordered to pay a fine of nearly $3,000, records show.
Journalist Columbus Mavhunga and CNN’s Ed Payne contributed to this report.