Walter Palmer, the big game hunter from Minnesota who became the focus of a worldwide controversy after he illegally killed a celebrated lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe in July, has said he plans to resume work at his dental practice in a Minneapolis suburb on Tuesday.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Associated Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Palmer talked of his plans to resume dental work, and continued to stress that he felt his activities in Zimbabwe were legal. He also said he was shocked when he learned that the lion he killed was a national favorite.
"If I had known this lion had a name and was important to the country or a study obviously I wouldn't have taken it," Palmer said. "Nobody in our hunting party knew before or after the name of this lion."
Palmer paid to kill Cecil on July 1 just outside Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park. He and his guide lured the lion out of the national park, then shot him with an arrow. But the shot was not fatal, and the hunter and his guide reportedly tracked the wounded animal for more than a day before killing, skinning, and decapitating it. Zimbabwe's government reported the incident in late July, sparking global outrage and widespread condemnation of trophy hunting.
In the weeks following the revelation that Palmer was the hunter behind Cecil's death, the dentist became the subject of social media criticism and harassment. Protesters also gathered at his dental practice in Eden Prairie, as well as his home in Bloomington. Internet users took to the website Yelp to slam his dental office and drop his rating on the business review site.
Palmer did not discuss how much he spent on the hunt in the latest interview. The dentist spoke with the media outlets about the threats he received, saying it had been a difficult time for his family.
"I don't understand that level of humanity to come after people not involved at all," Palmer said.
Palmer said he now felt safe going back to the office. He closed the doors on his practice following the incident, and chose to stay home after it reopened at the end of August.
Cecil was wearing a tracking collar when he was lured out of Hwange National Park and onto private property, and was believed to be either the fourth or fifth collared lion from Hwange killed in the last year. According to data from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, tourists legally kill at least 600 lions annually.
In the aftermath of Cecil's death, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Air Canada, Air France, Qantas and other major airlines said they will no longer transport bodies or parts of what hunters call "the big five" — lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and buffalo trophies.
A Zimbabwean cabinet minister has called for Palmer to be extradited from the US to face charges, but the dentist has maintained that he relied on his professional guides to ensure the hunt was legal. Two Zimbabweans — a professional hunter and a farm owner — have been charged in Cecil's killing.
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