The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said it has been unable to contact the Twin Cities dentist who shot the lion, despite “multiple efforts.” It asked that he or his representative “contact us immediately.”
MINNEAPOLIS — U.S. wildlife authorities announced an investigation Thursday into the killing of Cecil, a prized lion in Zimbabwe, and revealed that they have been unable to contact Dr. Walter Palmer, the big-game hunter and suburban Minneapolis dentist who participated in the fatal hunt.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the circumstances surrounding the killing of ‘Cecil the lion,’ ” said Edward Grace, the agency’s deputy chief of law enforcement.
Grace also acknowledged that “at this point in time … multiple efforts to contact Dr. Walter Palmer have been unsuccessful. We ask that Dr. Palmer or his representative contact us immediately.”
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reached Palmer by telephone Wednesday and requested an interview. He said, “I’m meeting with my team,” and declined to say more. He did not answer his phone Thursday.
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The fish and wildlife agency and the U.S. Justice Department had said just a day earlier that they would merely assist Zimbabwe authorities in their investigation into Cecil’s death. Palmer has not been charged in either country.
Palmer, 55, of Eden Prairie, shot and wounded the lion with a bow and arrow July 1. For a price of more than $50,000, Palmer was accompanied by a guide and another person, both of whom have been implicated in the kill by law enforcement in Zimbabwe. After tracking led them to Cecil about 40 hours later, the hunting party finished the lion off with a gunshot.
Earlier, Palmer issued a statement saying he did not know the lion that was killed was a protected animal living on a reserve and was part of a study. Palmer’s statement said he regretted killing Cecil and was only following what he thought were the legal directions of his guide.
The lion lived in Hwange National Park, where he had protected status and was collared as part of a long-term study. He became a favorite among tourists and a point of pride for the southern African nation.
Zimbabwe wildlife officials say the lion was killed after a nighttime pursuit during which the hunters tied a dead animal to their car as bait to lure it out of the park.
After being killed, he was beheaded, the head intended as a trophy for the hunter.
Wildlife officials and conservationists say some big-game hunters in search of exotic trophies and poachers are causing a global crisis.
Citing what it called alarming trends in illicit hunting and poaching, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution Thursday that supporters say would be the start of a global effort to tackle illegal poaching and trafficking of wildlife.
In an address to the General Assembly, Harald Braun, the permanent representative of Germany to the United Nations, said illicit hunting had become a pressing global issue. He described the poaching of an elephant for its tusks near a national park in South Africa this week, and the killings of more than 700 rhinoceroses for their horns in South Africa this year.
“The time to act is now,” Braun said. “No one country, region or agency working alone will be able to succeed.”
U.N. officials said that the resolution would foster cooperation among countries to fight money laundering, and that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would recommend actions based on the resolution next year.
Cecil’s killing has unleashed outrage that has spanned the globe. Palmer has been forced to halt his dental practice as critics tied up his phone lines, filled his social-media account and website with harsh postings and staged a protest outside his Bloomington office.