The White House has received close to 150,000 signatures by Americans demanding that the U.S. dentist who killed a popular lion in Zimbabwe be extradited there for trial.
Zimbabwe on Friday also requested extradition of hunting enthusiast Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota who has been accused of illegally killing the lion known as Cecil.
Cecil was a subject of research and had become popular through videos showing him walking leisurely in the wild. The possibility that he was lured out of a protected national park to be killed as a trophy has enraged many Americans.
Beth Allgood of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said, "We've done a poll and 70 percent of Americans would pay to see lions in the wild and only 6 percent would pay to hunt lions in the wild. And most Americans are really opposed to trophy hunting, 75 percent strongly oppose lion trophy hunting."
But many are not aware that Americans are overwhelmingly those who travel far and wide to hunt for rare animal trophies.
"With lion hunting, in particular, Americans are over 50 percent of the trophy hunting in Africa is done by Americans. But most people don't go over to just hunt. They go over because they want to bring the trophies back and display them," Allgood said.
Permits for big game hunting are very expensive.
Palmer reportedly paid more than $50,000 to shoot a lion in Zimbabwe. But conservationists point out that more revenue can be made by keeping rare animals alive and showing them to tourists.
Animal advocates in the United States said a ban on importing trophies would help curtail lion hunting and rare animal poaching.
White House action
The White House is expected to respond to the petitions it has received demanding Palmer's extradition to Zimbabwe. But any decision on extradition is made by the State Department after judicial authorities examine the case.
Mark Toner, U.S. State Department deputy spokesman, said, "And obviously humanitarian concerns and the ability of an individual to receive a fair trial may be considered at that stage of the process."
Palmer has admitted killing the 13-year-old lion, but told the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that he had hired professional guides and was unaware that Cecil was protected.
The agency also has launched an investigation into the killing of the lion.