The backlash is great toward an American dentist who allegedly paid $55,000 to shoot and kill a beloved African lion named Cecil outside a national park in Zimbabwe. Authorities want him questioned and the internet is on fire.
Minnesota dentist and father of two, Walter Palmer was identified as the suspected shooter in the death of Cecil, a 13-year-old lion who was collared and being studied by Oxford University researchers. Palmer was apparently outed by regional hunting organizations and a representative who spoke with The Telegraph.
“What he’ll tell you is that he had the proper legal permits and he had hired several professional guides, so he’s not denying that he may be the person who shot this lion. He is a big-game hunter; he hunts the world over,” the spokesman, who declined to be identified, told the Telegraph.
In a brief interview with the Minnesota Star Tribune, Palmer said many of the allegations have been misreported though he did not elaborate at that time. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials in Zimbabwe were looking to speak with the dentist.
Two of Palmer’s hunting guides, one a professional hunter and the other a landowner, were taken into custody in connection with the hunt, which officials called illegal. Although Palmer acquired the necessary permits, it is illegal to shoot a collared animal.
Cecil was apparently lured out of the Hwange National Park to a local farm where Palmer shot it with a crossbow. They then tracked the line for 40 hours before being able to finally kill him. It was then beheaded and skinned for a trophy. There is evidence also that the hunters tried to destroy the collar.
Back home in Minnesota, Palmer’s dental practice has faced an onslaught by critics, taking to Yelp as a way to voice their opinions with some getting especially.
“Nothing in this world would give me greater pleasure than to see your head mounted on a wall, your carcass defiled, degraded and paraded as you did to Cecil and near countless other animals,” wrote one person.
“What a vile human being,” wrote another.
In 2009, Palmer was featured in a New York Times story about the Pope and Young records for bow hunting. Palmer had used his skills to kill all but one of the animals on the list, which includes polar bears, leaopards, rhinos and lions.
Johnny Rodrigues, head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, said the hunters used a dead carcass to lure the lion away from the protected national park, and the head and skin has been confiscated.
“He never bothered anybody,” Rodriguez told The Telegraph. “He was one of the most beautiful animals to look at.”
Cecil was a well-known lion in the park, having fathered dozens of cubs and the head of a well-known pride in the national park so it’s unthinkable to many that they would not have known its identity. The future of those cubs were now thought to be in danger.
Similar incidents sparked firestorms earlier this year, one regarding an American who paid $350,000 to kill an African rhino and another when comedian Ricky Gervais stirred the pot over the killing of a giraffe.