Walter Palmer had insisted all along that his hunting licenses were properly filed, and that the fault for the hunt that bagged “Cecil the Lion” rested on his guides in Zimbabwe. The government of Zimbabwe agrees, declining to file charges against the Minnesota dentist, whose life and practice got turned upside down after news of the hunt made headlines around the world:
AFP reports that Zimbabwe now considers this an internal matter, and that Palmer was correct all along about his compliance with their laws:
Zimbabwe abandoned Monday its bid to press charges against a US dentist who killed Cecil the lion, saying his papers “were in order” and that he didn’t know he was committing an offence. …
But a minister on Monday said Zimbabwe would drop its bid to have Palmer brought to justice because he at the time of hunt, he was carrying all the right papers.
“Palmer came to Zimbabwe because his papers were in order,” Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri told reporters.
“We are now going to review how we issue hunting quotas,” she said.
“The documents were there… The problem now remains internal.”
Golly — you mean the lynch mob was wrong? Go figure. Palmer, an experienced hunter, had his papers in order all along.
Of course, the mob reaction was less about breaking laws than it was about hunting itself. Big-game hunting is controversial, but countries such as Zimbabwe and conservation efforts benefit from the revenue derived from the high prices licensing draws. Cutting off safaris that control access to targeted game — although in this case those controls clearly failed — would mean less interest in conservation, and more attempts at poaching in black-market hunts driven by poverty.
Besides, while the death of a protected lion in Africa is certainly regrettable, why were so many here rabidly cheering for the extradition of an American to a country not exactly known for its dedication to impartial justice? And why have we stopped talking about the abuses of the Robert Mugabe dictatorship and the abject impoverishment of Zimbabwe during his disastrous reign of more than three decades? Shouldn’t that generate at least a little more concern than the death of one lion?