When news broke that a beloved Zimbabwe lion had been killed, beheaded and skinned allegedly for sport at the hands of an American dentist from Minnesota, outrage poured in from around the world. Celebrities, activist groups and the general public were up in a roar over the death of the lion called Cecil.
Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, was identified Tuesday by the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe and police as the American hunter facing poaching charges for the crossbow killing of Cecil, a well-known and protected lion.
A seasoned big game hunter, Palmer would travel the world in pursuit of animal trophies. On Tuesday, Palmer released a statement saying that to his knowledge, "everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted."
"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," he said. "I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion."
However, 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. 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.
In regards to the Cecil killing, conservation group says the men had tied a dead animal to their car to lure the lion out of a national park. Palmer is believed to have shot and wounded the lion with a crossbow. The wounded lion was found 40 hours later, and the conservation group says Palmer then fatally shot it. Police say they are looking for Palmer, who reportedly paid $50,000 to track and kill the animal.
CBS Minnesota reports that several stuffed animal toys have been placed outside of Palmer's dental office and home.
The Associated Press reports that a small group of protesters gathered at the suburban Minneapolis dentist's office in Bloomington as of Wednesday afternoon. About 15 people were outside. A few protesters held signs, including one that said, "Let the hunter be hunted!" and another that said, "Extradite Walter Palmer."
Sarah Madison brought her two children, including her 3-year-old son dressed in a lion costume and carrying a sign that said, "Protect me. Don't hunt me."
Madison says the hunt, even if legal, was "immoral" and "disgraceful."
Local artist Mark Balma also was outside the office, painting a large picture of an African lion he intends to donate to an organization that protects animals.
"Extradite Palmer! Extradite Palmer!" the angry protestors chanted.
Demonstrators didn't leave any doubt about what they thought of their hometown dentist reports Jamie Yuccas of CBS Minnesota.
"He killed Cecil just because he wanted some skin and a head? That's unreasonable," said a 10-year-old protestor.
"I'll be taking these pearly whites elsewhere," said patient Ann Flood.
CBS Minnesota reports that the animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said if the Minnesota man did indeed kill the beloved Zimbabwe lion, he should be, "extradited, charged, and, preferably, hanged."
Another animal rights organization, the Humane Society of the United States, went after Palmer as well. President and CEO, Wayne Pacelle, responded to the killing of Cecil on his blog.
"Cecil the lion is dead because Walter Palmer the dentist is a morally deadened human being," he wrote. "The lion is one of Safari Club International's Africa Big Five, along with elephants, rhinos, leopards, and Cape buffalo, and the idea of killing each of them motivates thousands of wealthy people to do it."
Dr. Jane Goodall, the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, renowned primatologist and the U.N. Messenger of Peace, responded to the news of Cecil's death also in a blog post on her website.
"Not only is it incomprehensible to me that anyone would want to kill an endangered animal (fewer than 20,000 wild lions in Africa today) but to lure Cecil from the safety of a national park and then to shoot him with a crossbow...?" she wrote. "I have no words to express my repugnance."
A Facebook page for Palmer's Minnesota dental practice was taken offline Tuesday after users flooded it with comments condemning Palmer's involvement in the hunt.
Hundreds of similar comments inundated a page for his dental practice on review platform Yelp, which prior to Tuesday had only three comments. The reviews poured in from Chicago to New York City to Texas to California, chastising and threatening the dentist.
One commentator wrote on Yelp, "Murderer! Should have the same done to him as he does to animals. What a pathetic excuse for a human. If you're such a man why not stalk, track and kill a lion by hand."
Another wrote, "JUSTICE FOR CECIL! Walter Palmer your wonderful life is over as you knew it! Absolutely disgusted with your recent choice of actions, you deserve everything you get from here on out! Karma at work! You're an evil person for your so called hobby! HOPE YOU SUFFER IN PRISON, PIG!"
A Change.org petition had garnered over 8,000 signatures by Wednesday calling on President Obama to extradite Walter Palmer to face charges in Zimbabwe. Retired NBA player Jason Collins Tweeted about signing the petition.
On Tuesday's "Jimmy Kimmel Live," the talk show host dedicated his monologue to Palmer. The funny man tried to keep most of his monologue light, making jokes, but he still got visibly choked up toward the end talking about the killing of wild and endangered animals.
Kimmel wasn't the only celebrity that has weighed in on the allegations against the American dentist. On Twitter many celebrities remembered Cecil and a few even directly went after Palmer.
Brent Stapelkamp, who was part of an Oxford University scientific team that studied Cecil for seven years, said that hunters would have known what they were doing.
"If you are going to come to a country like Zimbabwe and you're going to pay that sort of money, you should have done your homework," Stapelkamp told CBS News. "You should know which areas you're going to be hunting. On their hunting forums it would have been mentioned that there was no lion quota in Ngwaya."
Two men in Zimbabwe have appeared in court in connection with the killing of a protected lion by an American dentist. A professional hunter and a farmer are accused of helping Palmer hunt the lion.
African wildlife expert Dex Kotze also said it is impossible that Palmer's hunting team didn't know it was Cecil.
"I mean a black mane lion like that you can see from afar and even on a hunt. You are definitely going to identify that this -- hang on this is a collared lion and it is Cecil. Because all the conservationists and wildlife industry in that area would have been very familiar with that lion Cecil," Kotze said.
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