Dentist who killed lion defends himself despite backlash

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota dentist who killed Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe is speaking out for the first time since the controversial hunt. Walter Palmer insists he did nothing wrong and he's going back to work.

Six weeks after being identified as the hunter who killed the beloved national treasure of Zimbabwe, the 55-year-old Dentist told the Associated Press and Minnesota Star Tribune it's time to get his life back on track.

Palmer had stayed out of public sight while protesters -- and some patients -- targeted his office and homes.

"You can safely say these pearly whites will be going elsewhere from now on," one patient said.

In a 25-minute interview Palmer restated his belief he acted legally. "If I had known this lion had a name and was important to the country," he said. "Obviously I wouldn't have taken it."

He disputed accounts Cecil was allowed to wander for 40 hours after being shot with bow and arrow before he was finished off with a gun. Palmer told the reporters Cecil was tracked down the next day and killed with an arrow.

en090715axelrodlionkiller.jpg

Despite the backlash against him, Walter Palmer, insists that killing Cecil the lion was not intentional

CBS News

In addition to the protesters, Palmer had been targeted on social media, which he says has been tough on his wife and daughter who both felt threatened. "I don't understand that level of humanity," he said. "To come after people not involved at all."

Both the guide and the property owner in Zimbabwe have been charged with participating in an illegal hunt. They both are looking at the possibility of jail time. But at this point it does not appear the country will seek to extradite Walter Palmer, nor charge him with any crime.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.