Press Association

The American dentist who killed the lion was a “foreign poacher” who paid for an illegal hunt and he should be extradited to Zimbabwe to face justice, the country’s environment minister Oppah Muchinguri has said.

In Harare’s first official comments since killing grabbed world headlines this week, Ms Muchinguri said the process to have 55- year-old Walter Palmer extradited from the US had already started.

Ms Muchinguri, a senior member of President Mugabe’s ruling ZANU- PF party, described – well-known to tourists in the Hwange National Park – as an “iconic attraction”.

She told a news conference. “We are appealing to the authorities for his extradition to Zimbabweso that he can be held accountable for his illegal actions.”

Mr Palmer has admitted killing the 13-year-old lion, who was fitted with a GPS collar as part of anOxford University study, but said in a statement he had hired professional guides and believed all necessary hunting permits were in order.

He has not been seen since his identity was revealed.

Ms Muchinguri also said Mr Palmer’s use of a bow and arrow to kill , who is said to have been lured out of the national park with bait before being shot, was in contravention of Zimbabwean hunting regulations.

Mr Palmer, a life-long big game hunter, returned to the US before authorities were aware of the controversy.

The White House said on Thursday it would review a public petition of more than 100,000 signatures to have Mr Palmer extradited.

In Zimbabwe, the illegal killing of a lion is punishable by a mandatory fine and up to 10 years in prison.