Safari Club International is suspending the membership of the Minnesota hunter accused of illegally killing a protected lion in Zimbabwe and wants a "full and thorough investigation" into the lion's death.

The club, which promotes big-game hunting worldwide, issued a statement late Wednesday saying memberships for Walter Palmer and his guide in Zimbabwe, Theo Bronkhorst, will be on hiatus until investigations are complete.

Bronkhorst is facing criminal charges in Zimbabwe over the July 1 killing of the beloved lion named Cecil, who was drawn away from a wildlife preserve and shot by Palmer with a bow and arrow. Palmer has said he believed the hunt was legal.

The Safari Club says "those who intentionally take wildlife illegally should be prosecuted and punished to the maximum extent allowed by law."