Cecil the lion killing: Walter Palmer, U.S. dentist, won't be charged

​Zimbabwe will not charge an American dentist for killing its most prized lion in July because he had obtained legal authority to conduct the hunt, a cabinet minister says.

'All the papers were in order' for American to hunt, Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri says

The killing of Cecil the lion last summer in Zimbabwe by Walter Palmer caused uproar, but now Zimbabwe says the American dentist won't be charged. (EPA/Trophy Hunt America)

Zimbabwe will not charge an American dentist for killing its most prized lion in July because he had obtained legal authority to conduct the hunt, a cabinet minister said on Monday.

Palmer, a lifelong big-game hunter from Minnesota, stoked a global controversy when he killed Cecil, a rare black-maned lion, with a bow and arrow outside Hwange National Park in Western Zimbabwe.

But Palmer's hunting papers were in order, Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri said on Monday.

Consequently, he could not be charged.

"We approached the police and then the prosecutor general, and it turned out that Palmer came to Zimbabwe because all the papers were in order," Muchinguri-Kashiri told reporters.

Muchinguri Kashiri said Palmer was free to visit Zimbabwe as a tourist but not as a hunter, and Zimbabwe was no longer pressing for his extradition. The implication was he would not be issued the permits a hunter needs.

Zimbabwe's police and the National Prosecuting Authority had cleared Palmer of wrongdoing, she said.

Two more people still face charges related to Cecil's killing. Both allegedly were involved in using bait to lure 
Cecil out of his habitat in Hwange National Park so he could be killed.

Theo Bronkhorst, a professional hunter in Zimbabwe, is charged with breaching hunting rules in connection with the hunt in which Cecil was killed. A game park owner is also charged with allowing an illegal hunt. Both have denied the charges. 

Bronkhorst is expected to appear in a Hwange court on Thursday where a magistrate will rule on a request by his lawyers that his indictment be quashed.

Palmer, 55, has previously said that the hunt was legal and no one in the hunting party realized the targeted lion was 
Cecil, a well-known tourist attraction in the park. 

Palmer could not be reached immediately for comment on the  environment minister's statement to reporters. 

With files from The Associated Press