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Where Is Walter Palmer? Lion-Killing Dentist Disappears As Protesters Rally Outside His Home

Public fury over the death of a cherished protected animal has forced an American dentist to close his practice in the US, as two other men are set to appear in Zimbabwean court today.

by VICE News
Jul 29 2015, 10:45am

El león Cecil/EPA

Where in the world is Walter Palmer? Nobody seems to know — not the US Fish and Wildlife Service agents who want to speak with the dentist after he shot, skinned, and beheaded a rare African Lion in Zimbabwe earlier this month, nor the knot of angry animal lovers yelling "scumbag," and "murderer" outside his home and dental practice in Minnesota.

"I'm sure he knows" the government is on his tail, Ed Grace, the US Fish and Wildlife Service's chief of law enforcement for told the Washington Post. "We've made repeated attempts to try and get in contact with him."

But Palmer has seemingly slipped into hiding, with no known sightings of the endangered dentist since Tuesday. It may be just as well, as police said numerous "terroristic " and other threats have reportedly been made against the 55-year-old game hunter and outside his known domiciles.

Bloomington Police Deputy Chief Mike Hartley said that his department was made aware of the threats on Tuesday, and that police will investigate the matter "like any other similar offense," Reuters reported.

Palmer, meanwhile, has advised his patients to seek care elsewhere since facing the escalating wrath of animal lovers, conservationists, and it seems the internet as a whole.

Palmer is believed to have paid almost $55,000 to hunt and kill Cecil, a beloved and famous lion, from one of Zimbabwe's national parks.

The dentist has made a statement, saying he is "upset" over the fierce backlash he has faced, and insisted he had no idea the lion he killed was protected.

Palmer, who has a felony record in the US related to shooting a black bear in Wisconsin, released a statement on Tuesday after Zimbabwean authorities identified him as the American involved in the July hunt. They said he is being sought on poaching charges, but he claimed that he hadn't heard from US or Zimbabwean authorities.

"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," he said, adding that his guides had proper permits, and to his knowledge, everything was handled properly.

"I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion," he said.

But furious animal lovers and conservationists have called for him to face prosecution, or worse. PETA, the famously outspoken animal rights group, said Cecil's killer should be hanged.

Newt Gringrich, the former speaker of the US House of Representatives, tweeted that Palmer should be imprisoned.

US Representative Betty McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat, also called for an investigation. In a statement late Tuesday, the congresswoman called for the US Attorney's Office and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to see whether any American laws were violated.

Media personality Piers Morgan went further, describing how he, in turn, would like to hunt and slaughter those responsible for Cecil's death.

"I will sell tickets for $50,000 to anyone who wants to come with me and track down fat, greedy, selfish, murderous businessmen like Dr. Palmer in their natural habit," he said. "We would all take a bow and fire a few arrows into his limbs to render him incapable of movement.

"Then we'd calmly walk over, skin him alive, cut his head from his neck, and took a bunch of photos of us all grinning inanely at his quivering flesh."

Comedian Ricky Gervais was among a plethora of celebrities also voicing their outrage.

Johnny Rodrigues, head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, previously told VICE News that the bow and arrow didn't immediately kill 13-year-old Cecil. The lion was tracked for an additional 40 hours, he said, and then finished off with a gun before being beheaded and skinned.

He said that Cecil "was an icon," and called his death "a total loss."

Related: The Illicit Wildlife and Resource Trade Is Financing Militias and Terrorists

A Facebook page for Palmer's Minnesota dental practice was taken offline on Tuesday after users flooded it with comments condemning his involvement in the hunt. Hundreds of similar comments inundated a page for his practice on the review platform Yelp, which prior to Tuesday had only three comments.

Some people left stuffed animals at the door to his shuttered office Tuesday in a sign of protest.

According to US court records, Palmer pleaded guilty in 2008 to making false statements to the US Fish and Wildlife Service about a black bear he fatally shot in western Wisconsin. Palmer had a permit to hunt but shot the animal outside the authorized zone in 2006, then tried to pass it off as being killed elsewhere, according to court documents. He was given one year probation and fined nearly $3,000.

Related: An Iconic Lion Named Cecil Was Skinned and Decapitated by Hunters in Zimbabwe

Palmer has several hunts on record with the Pope and Young Club, where archers register big game taken in North America for posterity, said Glenn Hisey, the club's director of records. Hisey said he didn't have immediate access to records showing the types and number of animals killed by Palmer, but he noted that club records involve legal hunts "taken under our rules of fair chase."

Although African game wouldn't be eligible, Hisey said he alerted the group's board that Palmer's ethics were being called into question. He said Palmer's domestic records could be jeopardized if he's found to have done something illegal abroad.

Follow Charlotte Meredith on Twitter: @CHMeredith

The Associated Press contributed to this report