Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe says his compatriots failed in their responsibility to protect a popular lion named Cecil that was killed by an American in an allegedly illegal hunt.

In his first public comments about the lion, Mugabe said Monday that Zimbabweans should protect their natural resources from foreign "vandals" who try to illegally acquire those resources.

Referring to Cecil, Mugabe said: "He is dead but yours to protect, and you failed to protect him."

Mugabe made the comments in a speech marking a national holiday honoring fighters who died in the war to end white minority rule.

A Zimbabwean Cabinet minister has called for the extradition of James Walter Palmer, who killed Cecil. Palmer says he relied on his professional guides to ensure the hunt was legal.