Beloved animal expert Jack Hanna, emeritus director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, called for the Walter Palmer to be punished for killing Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, and noted that Americans had been jailed for less severe poaching crimes.
During an interview on ABC's This Week, Hanna explained that the world's lion population was declining rapidly.
"In 1947 when I was born, there were about 450,000 lions, the mid-70s when my kids were born, there were about 100,000," he told ABC's Jonathan Karl. "Today, there are less than 30,000."
Even though Hanna said that he was not there when the Minnesota dentist killed Cecil, he argued that there were four important facts that made the case particularly egregious.
He noted that the lion had been "habituated" by the researchers who had been studying him over the past 15 years: "It's like a cow sitting in a field."
"Number two, you drag a carcass over from the protected side of [Hwange National Park] over to the hunting side -- and that was proven that they drug the carcass for the animal to be drug over to that area where he could be hunted by bow an arrow," he continued. "Someone said the man might not have seen the collar on the lion. Well if that was a rifle, maybe that's true -- but I was there when they were collaring the lions, by the way -- so therefore, you could see that collar if it was a bow and arrow."
"Some people said they didn't have the right permits, well that could be or not be. So, there's so much stacked against him plus one illegal thing he had already done."
Hanna added that he was not "anti-hunter" and that in many cases hunters helped to fund conservation efforts, but he said that conditions in Zimbabwe were "beyond abominable."
As for Zimbabwe's request to extradite Palmer, Hanna agreed that the hunter should face consequences for his actions -- even if it he faced punishment in the United States.
"Let's put it this way: Several years ago -- I don't know the exact year, you can look it up -- a gentleman was in Yellowstone and took an elk, took the animal, killed the animal, put him in the back of a pickup. He got very hefty fines as well as, my understanding is, four or so years in prison."
"And there have been other instances like that as well. So what should happen is -- as far as extraditing him to Zimbabwe, if you know much about Zimbabwe, that's probably not someplace [he should be extradited]," Hanna said.
"Do you think he should be punished?" Karl wondered. "Do you think he could go to jail for this?"
"Yeah, I think every good hunter would agree that something has to happen here," Hanna insisted. "The doctor must know himself that something has to happen here because that's not what good hunters do by any means."
"He had to know some of these things I pointed out. You just can't drag a carcass from one protected side to another and shoot him out there like a cow," the animal expert remarked. "Predator-prey relationships is what our good Lord put on the planet here. The predator relationship to prey is messed up in a lot of places so you have to work on that."
"However, I think this issue has to be looked at immediately considering the loss of the lions at 30,000 now. We have to take some of these animals that might not be plentiful and put these animals in other areas where they need these animals."