Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe lashed out at US amateur hunter Walter Palmer for killing Cecil, saying the country’s wildlife belongs to its people. He also blamed foreign tourists for destroying local resources.
In a speech to mark Zimbabwe’s Heroes’ Day, aging president Robert Mugabe condemned the killing of Cecil the lion on Monday, blaming foreign visitors for destroying the nation’s wildlife and natural resources.
“Our wildlife, all our animals, belong to us. They should not be shot with a gun or with an arrow,” the president, who has often come under fire for his human rights record in his decades-long tenure, told the thousands who gathered at a shrine on the outskirts of the capital Harare for the day’s celebrations.
“Even Cecil the lion is yours. He is dead. He was yours to protect and he [was] there to protect you,” Mugabe said, referring to the early July incident where the popular lion, beloved of visitors to Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, was killed by American dentist Walter Palmer.
Walter Palmer the target of global ire
Cecil’s death sparked worldwide outrage when it was discovered that Palmer had paid a local safari company $55,000 (50,000 euros) to hunt and kill the lion with a bow and arrow. Palmer and his local guides allegedly lured Cecil, who was wearing a tracking collar as part of an Oxford University research project, outside the park grounds in order to kill him.
Local tracker Theo Bronkhurst was subsequently arrested and charged with failure to prevent an illegal hunt. He has been temporarily freed on bail pending his September 28 trial.
Palmer, a seasoned trophy hunter, and his dental practice became the targets of often vicious online fury and has gone into hiding following demonstrations outside his offices in suburban Minnesota.
He has apologized for killing the lion, but blamed his local guides for the incident, saying they misled him as to the legality of the hunt.
Mugabe took the opportunity Monday to lash out at international tourists who is his view, have come to “vandalize” Zimbabwe. “There are vandals who come from all over. Of course some may be just ordinary visitors but others want to vandalize, to irregularly and illegally acquire part of these resources.”
The authorities in Zimbabwe have launched a massive crackdown on poaching and illegal hunting in response to the international outcry over Cecil’s death.