WASHINGTON — The Internet exploded in outrage this week after it was revealed that a Minnesota tourist killed a beloved lion while on a hunting expedition in Zimbabwe. That indignation reached Capitol Hill yesterday, as 4th District Rep. Betty McCollum was quick to call for justice for the protected African lion, fondly referred to as Cecil the Lion.
In a statement released yesterday, McCollum denounced the actions of Walter Palmer, a dentist from Eden Prairie, who may have paid as much as $50,000 to participate in the guided hunt in Zimbabwe. Palmer and his guides allegedly lured the lion out of a protected area in order to kill it, a move that critics, including McCollum, call illegal.
“To bait and kill a threatened animal, like this African lion, for sport cannot be called hunting, but rather a disgraceful display of callous cruelty,” McCollum said. Palmer says he was not aware that the lion was a protected animal, and regrets what happened.
McCollum, who serves as co-chair of the International Congressional Conservation Caucus, called for an investigation of Palmer. “For those of us committed to ending poaching of iconic African species I strongly believe the U.S. Attorneys’ Office and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should investigate whether U.S. laws were violated related to conspiracy, bribery of foreign officials, and the illegal hunting of a protected species or animal,” McCollum said.
She added that she would actively pursue a legislative path to protecting other endangered animals in Africa and elsewhere. Speaking on Minnesota Public Radio on Wednesday morning, McCollum said she is currently working on legislation to crack down on the poaching of animals for ivory.
Palmer, whose dental practice is based in Bloomington, appears to be an avid rare game hunter, and photos of him posing with dead trophy animals like cheetahs have surfaced online. Lions and other protected big game are hunted and killed regularly by tourists from the United States and elsewhere, according to experts.