The man who paid $54,000 to kill a beloved lion in Zimbabwe was identified this week as Walter James Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota. Palmer, whose name was first reported by The Telegraph on Tuesday, traveled to Zimbabwe earlier this month, where he killed Cecil the lion with a bow and arrow after luring the animal out of a national park.
The 13-year-old lion had been part of an Oxford University study, and was one of the most popular animals at Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park. Palmer and the people he paid to organize the hunt allegedly used bait to lure Cecil outside of the park before killing, beheading, and skinning the animal.
News of Cecil's death elicited swift condemnation from conservation groups. “Actions, like these, are quickly pushing imperiled species toward extinction," Jeff Flocken, North American regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said in a statement. "So long as a value continues to be placed on these animals, where they are worth more dead than alive, the future of majestic creatures like elephants, lions, tigers and rhinos will remain in grave jeopardy."
"Brought my lion here for dentistry and was horrified by the result."
The hunt has also sparked anger online, with some internet users posting scathing or sarcastic reviews on the Yelp page for Palmer's dentistry practice. "Brought my lion here for dentistry and was horrified by the result," reads a one-star review. "I needed a tooth extracted, so Dr. Palmer shot me in the neck with a crossbow, chased and tracked me for 40 hours," reads another. Most reviewers were far more caustic, with some calling for Palmer to be sentenced to death, or describing him as a "psychotic deranged killer." Several Facebook pages bearing the name of Palmer's practice, River Bluff Dental, have also been created to criticize the dentist's hunting habits.
Palmer has been unabashed about his love for big game hunting in the past, posing with a leopard he killed in Zimbabwe and paying $45,000 at an auction to kill an elk. In a statement this week, the dentist and father of two said he regrets killing Cecil, adding that he thought his guides were organizing a legal hunt.
"I hired several professional guides, and they secured all proper permits," Palmer said. "To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled."
"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."