Dr. Walter Palmer, DDS, closes his practice and is now carrying another moniker – lion killer. Palmer, a Minnesota dentist, was forced to shutter his dental practice after being outed as the American behind the slaying of Zimbabwe’s beloved celebrity cat, Cecil the Lion.
Writes the New York Times: “In the hours since Dr. Walter J. Palmer apologized for killing the lion, he has gone from a dentist and longtime hunting enthusiast to a villain at the center of a firestorm over the ethics of big-game trophy hunting.”
Palmer killed Cecil the Lion – a celebrity lion of sorts at the Hwange National Park, the largest game reserve in Zimbabwe – by shooting the big cat with a crossbow and tracking him for close to 40 hours. The 13-year-old lion was left injured for two days; when Palmer and his hunting crew caught up to the wounded lion, Cecil was killed with a rifle, skinned and beheaded. His head was taken as a trophy, his carcass left to rot.
Describing Cecil, The Washington Post wrote: “For 13 years, the lion tread the protected grounds of the largest national park in Zimbabwe. He was a familiar sight on the road for those on safaris; the king of the jungle — or, at least, the savannah — who could reliably be seen walking down the road with his family. Like SeaWorld’s original Shamu or the National Zoo’s Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, Cecil was an animal who needed no last name — a great beast known not just for his majesty, but for his attitude.”
The social media and online presence backlash has been swift and devastating.
Palmer’s website, RiverBluffDental.com, is completely offline. Google’s preview page shows the dental group has over 2,700 reviews, with an average rating of 1.1 stars. Palmer’s Yelp page also has been besieged with hundreds of comments – ranging from the snarky to the outright threatening. As fast as Yelp deletes them, new reviews pop up. River Bluff’s Facebook page was taken down.
Weird visit. Some guy lured me into the dental chair by waving beef jerky at me. Once I sat down, Dr. Palmer viciously attacked my one cavity, but was unable to hit it with the drill. Profusely bleeding from my mouth, I fled the building and wandered the surrounding woods for a day and a half. Thankfully, I didn’t bleed out. My family would’ve been killed and eaten by my neighbors. Two stars. ~ Yelp user
A White House petition has already been signed by over 100,000 people, calling on Secretary of State John Kerry and Attorney General Loretta Lynch to extradite Palmer to Zimbabwe to face charges. A CARE2 petition to “Tell Zimbabwe to stop issuing hunting permits to kill endangered animals” has been signed by over 600,000 people as of July 29.
The exterior of Palmer’s office in Bloomington, Minnesota has been “redecorated” – dozens of stuffed animal lions sit outside, signs hang on the doors and windows denouncing the dentist, who is a member of the big game group Safari Club International and who has “43 bow and arrow kills” to his name. One sign reads, “We are Cecil,” another simply tells Palmer to “Rot in Hell!”
“Cecil was beautiful — one of the most beautiful animals you’d ever see,” commented Johnny Rodrigues of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force. “Nine times out of 10, during the safari drive, you’d come across him walking with his family. He was one of the animals it was guaranteed you were going to see. Thousands have seen him. Instead of protecting it — a good marketing tool — they go ahead and kill it.”
The 55-year-old Palmer has made no public appearances; the dentist has gone into hiding, closing his practice amid constant death threats. He has made only a few, brief statements.
“I hired several professional guides, and they secured all proper permits. 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,” Palmer said in statement issued through a public-relations firm.
Cecil had been fitted with a tracking collar, but it appears either Palmer or one of the men he was working with had removed the device.
He concluded his statement with:
Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion.
Palmer, an avid big gamer hunter and married father of two, paid approximately $50,000 to hunt the lion. A Hwange park ranger is accused of working with Palmer and his two-man crew of locals – a hunting guide and a farm owner – by accepting a bribe to lure Cecil outside of the park’s borders and into the “kill zone.” Cecil was reportedly persuaded to leave the reserve by the Zimbabweans, who tied a dead animal to their vehicle to illegally “bait” Cecil into the open.
The men were identified as Theo Bronkhorst and Honest Trymore Ndlovu.
Adds the Globe and Mail: “A professional hunter named Theo Bronkhorst was accused of failing to ‘prevent an unlawful hunt.’ Court documents said Mr. Bronkhorst was supervising while Mr. Palmer shot the animal. Mr. Bronkhorst was released on $1,000 bail after appearing at the Hwange magistrate’s court. If convicted, Mr. Bronkhorst faces up to 15 years in prison. A second man, farm owner Honest Trymore Ndlovu, also appeared in court but was not charged and was released from custody.”
Zimbabwean police have said that they want Palmer to return to Zimbabwe to face a number of charges. It wouldn’t be the first time this dentist was involved in an illegal hunt.
The Globe and Mail reports that according to U.S. court records, “Mr. Palmer pleaded guilty in 2008 to making false statements to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about a black bear he fatally shot in western Wisconsin. Mr. 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.”
A former employee of Palmer’s also accused him of sexually harassing her for six years, from 1999 to 2005. The woman accused the dentist of “ongoing and unwelcome sexual harassment by, but not limited to, verbal comments and physical conduct involving her breasts, buttocks and genitalia.” Palmer never admitted to any wrongdoing; he settled for $127K.
What do you think should happen to Dr. Walter Palmer?