The White House will have to formally respond to a citizen petition demanding that a Minnesota dentist be sent to Zimbabwe to face justice for killing, skinning and beheading a protected lion.
The petition on the White House’s We the People site would have needed to pass 100,000 signatures by Aug. 28 — 30 days from the petition’s launch — to trigger a response from the administration.
It quickly passed that threshold last night.
“Cecil the Lion, a resident of Zimbabwe’s national park, and a national icon was poached and killed this week. Media reports in the Guardian, Wall Street Journal and elsewhere have identified American Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minneapolis, MN as the poacher. He is alleged to have lured Cecil from the safety of the national park to kill him. Two of Palmer’s local accomplices are already in custody. Zimbabwe authorities now actively seeking Palmer in connection with this incident,” the petition states.
“We urge the Secretary Of State John Kerry and the Attorney General Loretta Lynch to fully cooperate with the Zimbabwe authorities and to extradite Walter Palmer promptly at the Zimbabwe government’s request.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating Cecil’s killing. “At this point in time, however, multiple efforts to contact Dr. Walter Palmer have been unsuccessful. We ask that Dr. Palmer or his representative contact us immediately,” said Edward Grace, the service’s deputy chief of law enforcement.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has also weighed in.
“I’m just so disgusted with that man,” Dayton said. “Shoot any lion but lure a lion like that out of the preserve and shoot him, how could anybody think that’s sport? Just appalling.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today that a process by which officials will respond to the petition now starts.
“It sounds as though this particular petition has reached that threshold. And so there will be a forthcoming White House response,” Earnest said. “The thing that I will say as a general matter, is that decisions about prosecution and extradition are made over at the Department of Justice.”
He said he hadn’t talked with President Obama about Cecil the lion, but was quick to link the Zimbabwe story to Obama’s recent trip to Kenya and Ethiopia.
“I know that he’s aware of it,” Earnest said. “…And the discussion of trying to counter illicit wildlife trafficking is something that came up on the president’s trip over there. And the Sunday that he talked about there was an advocate at the meeting that the president held with some civil society leaders in Nairobi. There was an advocate for trying to protect wildlife in Africa — I think this woman’s principal focus, as I recall, was actually on trying to protect the elephant population in Africa, which I think is also under some threat. But this is an issue that is a particularly important policy issue in Africa. And so this is something that we’re obviously aware of.”