The man who pulled the trigger on Cecil the Lion has reaffirmed his belief he was on a legal hunt.
In an exclusive interview with the Star Tribune, US dentist Walter Palmer, 55, said he thought the hunt was above board and that he had no idea the lion was the Zimbabwean favourite.
“Everything was done properly. This was a legal hunt for a lion in Zimbabwe. And because of the professionalism of the people who had to help him, a lion was taken,” Palmer’s attorney Joe Friedberg said.
Palmer stuck by his initial statement, made in late July, that admitted to killing the lion, although he quibbled about the duration, saying it lasted for less than the 40 hours previously reported.
He said he had withdrawn from the public eye following “some safety issues” for his family.
“I’ve been out of the public eye, and I’ve been seeing family and friends,” he said, denying he was in hiding.
“It’s been especially hard on my wife and daughter … they’ve been threatened … in the social media, and again … I don’t understand that level of humanity to come after people not involved at all.”
Cecil was a beloved feline at Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park and was allegedly lured from the park for the hunt.
Professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst and Antoinette landowner Honest Trymore Ndlovu were charged with poaching following the lion’s death.
Mr Friedberg said they had “no reason at this point” to believe Palmer would be charged.
Neither the US or Zimbabwean governments have launched legal action against Palmer.
Palmer planned to return to his Minneapolis dental practice this week.
“I have a lot of staff members at River Bluff Dental. I’m a little heartbroken at the disruption in their lives, and I’m a health professional,” he said.
“I need to get back to treating my patients.
“My staff and my patients support me, and they want me back. That’s why I’m back. I’ll be coming back this week.”