The US dentist who shot a beloved Zimbabwean lion with a bow and arrow says he “regrets” the kill but it has done little to quell anger over the incident, which created global headlines on Wednesday.
Minneapolis dentist Walter Palmer faced a massive public backlash when it was revealed he was the hunter behind the death of 13-year-old feline Cecil the Lion, a popular attraction among many international visitors to Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.
Personalities like Ricky Gervais, Jimmy Kimmel and Sharon Osborne have criticised the dentist, while the reaction has seen the social media accounts and website of his business, River Bluff Dental, shut down.
He continues to stand by the statement he thought he was on a legal hunt, and relied on professional guides to find a lion and obtain the necessary permits.
Meanwhile, the professional hunter and landowner involved in the hunt are due to appear in court on poaching charges.
Cecil was shot dead with a bow and arrow on July 1 after being lured out of the park in the west of Zimbabwe.
Allegations have surfaced that after the initial hit, the lion was stalked for 40 hours before being shot with a gun, skinned and beheaded.
This week Dr Palmer was identified as the hunter, allegedly paying $50,000 for the kill.
Dr Palmer is well-known in US hunting circles as an expert shot with his bow and arrow, and has travelled across the world in pursuit of leopards, buffalo, rhino, elk and other large mammals.
In 2008, Dr Palmer was accused of killing a bear about 65 kilometres outside his permitted zone, hauling the carcass back into the approved area and certifying falsely that it was killed there.
He was sentenced to one year probation and fined $US2,938.
After his killing of Cecil was exposed, Dr Palmer said he had “relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt”.
“I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practise responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion,” Dr Palmer said in a statement.
“I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favourite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt.”
Wildlife officials from the Zimbabwean Conservation Task Force have also questioned if Mr Palmer had a permit for the hunt.
Professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst and Antoinette landowner Honest Trymore Ndlovu are due to front court in Zimbabwe on poaching charges.
A joint statement from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe said Bronkhorst’s licence had been suspended and the lion trophy confiscated.
A petition calling for “justice for Cecil” had received more than 140,000 of the targeted 150,000 signatures on Wednesday morning.
Cecil, distinguished by his black mane, was described as “almost semi-domesticated” by a local safari operator.
— Pam (@dancingblond) July 28, 2015
News of Cecil’s death has also seen outrage on social media, including Sharon Osbourne.
“#WalterPalmer is Satan. I don’t know how anyone could go to this man for dental services after this. He is a killer. Beware!,” she tweeted.
Late night US TV host Jimmy Kimmel expressed his disbelief at the killing. “Why are you shooting a lion in the first place? I’m honestly curious to know why a human being would feel compelled to do that. Why is that fun? Is it difficult for you to get an erection that you need to kill thing?” he told viewers.
Kimmel’s program showed viewers other images of Dr Palmer with other animals he had killed.
“He killed half of Noah’s ark,” Kimmel said. Kimmel also recommended viewers make donations to the research group that had been tracking the lion. “Maybe we can show the world that all Americans are like this Jack hole.”
In protest, local residents began leaving stuffed animals at the front door of his office.
— VICE News (@vicenews) July 29, 2015