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The Lacey Act and Cecil the Lion

September 27, 2015 Hastings and Hastings

The sad and regrettable killing of Cecil the Lion has recently taken a grip of the national news cycle. The story has been convoluted and the information difficult to understand. So what exactly happened in Zimbabwe? Moral judgments aside, what are the legal ramifications of these events?

Minnesota based dentist Walter Palmer shot and killed a 13-year-old rare black-maned lion named Cecil. He was quickly labeled a “foreign poacher” by a government minister in Zimbabwe. Palmer himself maintains that the hunt was legal, and had been sanction by the proper government administration.

The story became an internet phenomena as wild life activists quickly indicted Palmer for killing a rare animal strictly for sport.

As public attention around the story grew, the great hulking attention of the U.S government was drawn and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service began an investigation into the matter. As of Tuesday, August 5, that investigation was still ongoing. It is believed that the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service is looking into possible violation of the Lacey Act in regards to the incident.

The Lacey Act, passed in the year 1900, was aimed at supporting conservation. The act prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported or sold. The application of the act will, in large part, depend on the details of Walter Palmer’s hunting trip. Was it truly legal and sanctioned by Zimbabwe, or was he indeed an illegal foreign poacher?

The Justice Department has stated that it could not formally begin any prosecution until the Fish and Wildlife Service has finished its investigation. The legal ramifications of the entire incident hinge on the application of the Lacey Act, a law passed 115 years ago.