The American dentist who killed Cecil the lion is reported to have hunted another endangered wild animal.
The hunter, who prompted a worldwide outpouring of fury when he targeted Cecil five years ago, was identified as one of two men in a photo with the dead Altai argali – the largest wild sheep in the world.
The image posted on social media shows the pair posing with their kill during a trip to Asia, although their faces are cropped from sight.
According to WWF, the argali is legally protected by Mongolian law, and hunting it is banned. Internationally, the species is officially classed as near-threatened.
Actor and wildlife campaigner Peter Egan condemned “the depravity exhibited by the killers” in the photograph.
The dentist travelled to Mongolia last August from his Minnesota home, the Daily Mirror reported, identifying the two men as Mr Palmer and his friend Brent Sinclair. It said they tracked their prey in the mountains with the help of local guides.
The newspaper said the two men have travelled the world together to kill animals for fun. It’s thought the ram, a “much older male”, was killed with an arrow.
A source told the paper that Mr Palmer had several more trips planned, saying: “At the time of Cecil’s death, Walter took a back seat. But he’s been hunting ever since he was a boy. It’s a way of life to him. Walter has undertaken several hunts since Cecil’s death.
“The trip to Mongolia was his idea. The ram was on his list of hunts he wanted to complete.”
Mr Palmer allegedly paid £32,000 to his Zimbabwean guides in July 2015 to be able to kill Cecil, and was suspected of luring the 13-year-old big cat out of its home in Hwange National Park to shoot it with a bow and arrow.
Cecil, who was being tracked by GPS satellite collar by Oxford researchers, was left bleeding and in pain before being shot dead the next day.
Of the Mongolia trip, Mr Sinclair wrote on Facebook: “I have booked more hunting trips with this guy over the past 20 years than I can count. Together, we have travelled to many far reaches of the world.”
The photo he posted of the dead ram was “liked” or “loved” by 79 people, and several friends congratulated him on the kill.
Mr Sinclair did not identify Mr Palmer on Facebook, instead calling him “amigo”. He talked about their once killing an elephant just 30 yards away, but said the trip to slaughter the sheep may be “at the top of the pinnacle and hard to beat”.
He has also posted photos of himself hunting turkeys, as well as other hunters posing with big cats including cougars they have targeted.
When confronted by a Mirror reporter, Mr Palmer refused to talk.
Teresa Telecky, wildlife vice-president at Humane Society International, said: “For trophy hunters to travel to Mongolia to kill a beautiful and endangered ram is an absolute outrage.
“The argali ram is a species in danger of extinction, so the idea that these animals can be killed for pleasure is abhorrent.
“The killing of Cecil the lion five years ago caused international shock but clearly the killing for kicks continues.
“It’s time for the law to stop wildlife killers in their tracks by banning trophy hunting.”
The UK government has suggested it will ban the import of animal parts killed for fun, after it ran a public consultation on the idea, but any announcement on it has been delayed.
After Cecil’s death, a high court in Zimbabwe cleared professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst of all charges.
The dentist said later that if he had known Cecil had a name and was important to a study, he would not have killed it.
Two weeks after Palmer’s trip to Mongolia, the US president’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr also travelled there to hunt the sheep, the Mirror said, costing American taxpayers £60,000 for secret service agents.
The Independent has contacted Mr Palmer to ask him to confirm the ram hunt and to ask for his reaction to the anger it has caused.