What do heartbroken big cat lovers do when they find out a Minnesotan dentist allegedly killed a beloved lion in Zimbabwe and chopped off its head? Well, this is the internet, so the answer is obvious: flood his practice's Yelp page with one-star reviews.
Conservationists and animal lovers around the world were devastated earlier this week over the news that Cecil, a famous 13-year-old lion that lived on protected parkland in Zimbabwe, had been killed. Cecil was allegedly lured outside of the protected borders of the Hwange national park earlier this month during a planned hunt, shot with a bow and arrow, then shot dead with a gun after being tracked for 40 hours. The lion was then skinned and beheaded.
Cecil was not only a popular attraction at the park, but was the dominant male of his pride, with six lioness mates and as many as a dozen cubs. The cubs are now at risk of being slaughtered by the next male in line, according to experts who say the new leader will want to rid the pride of Cecil's bloodline. Cecil also wore a GPS collar as as part of a 16 year study out of Oxford University.
This week, conservation groups in Zimbabwe and media outlets identified the hunter who killed Cecil as Walter Palmer, a dentist and father of two from a small city south of Minneapolis. Palmer issued a statement indicating he did kill Cecil as part of a hunting trip, but that he was relying on local guides and did not realize the lion's significance.
"I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt," he wrote. "I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion."
Two men involved in the hunt were arrested earlier this month and charged with poaching, though Palmer wrote that he had not been contacted by any authorities over the killing. But justice-thirsty Cecil fans have taken matters into their own hands to ensure Palmer is punished for killing the lion, flooding his cosmetic dentistry business's Yelp page with vitriolic reviews and comments:
The website for the business, River Bluff Dental, has also been offline most of the day due to traffic overloading the server. Other people have created fake business pages on Facebook to further shame Palmer, who has a well-documented history of big game bow hunting.
It's all probably unnecessary: the story has grown so big that anyone Googling Palmer's name or the name of his business will find reams of stories about the killing long before the Yelp page appears. But most likely, the people posting the Yelp comments are just seeking the same thing anyone writing a nasty review is searching for: pure, unadulterated catharsis.