The process to extradite the American hunter who shot a well-known lion in Zimbabwe has already begun.

"Unfortunately it was too late to apprehend the foreign poacher as he had already absconded to his country of origin," Oppah Muchinguri, Zimbabwe's environment, water and climate minister, told a news conference. "We are appealing to the responsible authorities for his extradition to Zimbabwe so that he be made accountable."

Walter James Palmer, a 55-year-old dentist in Minneapolis, lured "Cecil the Lion" out of Hwange National Park in western Zimbabwe before killing him with a crossbow. Palmer, who issued a statement Tuesday saying he relied on his two Zimbabwean guides to ensure the hunt was legal, allegedly paid $50,000 for the hunt.

Palmer "had a well-orchestrated agenda which would tarnish the image of Zimbabwe and further strain the relationship between Zimbabwe and the U.S.A.," Muchinguri said. "This must be condemned in the strongest possible terms by all genuine, animal-loving conservationists who believe in sustainable utilization of natural resources."

According to the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, the 13-year-old lion was lured out of the sanctuary with a dead animal on top of a vehicle. Cecil, a huge tourist draw at Hwange and recognizable by the black streaks in his mane, suffered a slow death, the conservation group said.

A White House petition for his extradition had reached more than 160,000 signatures by Friday. It needed to receive 100,000 by August 27 to get a response from the Obama administration.

Muchinguri echoed the petitioners Friday, saying nearly 500,000 people in Zimbabwe had called via Facebook for Palmer's extradition, saying he should be tried for his alleged offenses, such as violating the Parks and Wildlife Act, for example.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also investigating the circumstances of the lion's death.

(h/t the Associated Press, CNN)