Update: Dr. Walter Palmer has kept his dental practice closed since his name was released Tuesday in connection with Cecil's killing. But, outrage hasn't abated: Jimmy Kimmel gave an emotional monologue about the killing and actress Mia Farrow tweeted out Palmer's office address. The office itself has become an impromptu memorial for Cecil, with stuffed animals and tributes piling up outside — like in the above photo. This story was originally published on July 28, 2015.
The American hunter reported as being Cecil's killer, Dr. Walter Palmer, released a statement concerning the lion's death to the Star Tribune on the afternoon of July 28. "In early July, I was in Zimbabwe on a bow hunting trip for big game. I hired several professional guides and they secured all proper permits. To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted," he wrote. Palmer then went on to express regret for taking the lion's life, saying he "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," noting that he relied on the professional guides to ensure legality of the kill. Palmer has not been contacted by authorities about Cecil's death, but says he will assist them in any inquiries. "Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion," he wrote. Animal lovers might not want to read this: Cecil, a widely revered lion in Zimbabwe's Hwange national park, was killed by an American hunter who is infamous for killing big-game animals with a bow and arrow, the Telegraph reports. Cecil's body was found skinned and headless on the outskirts of the national park earlier in July. According to reports, the 13-year-old lion was lured outside the park, where it is illegal to hunt, with bait on July 1, allowing the hunters to "legally" kill the animal. Cecil was then shot with a bow and arrow; initial reports said the hunters tracked the wounded lion for 40 hours before killing him with a rifle. The whereabouts of Cecil's head are still unknown. Since the discovery of Cecil's body, authorities in Zimbabwe have been tracking down the hunters, initially believing that Cecil's killer was Spanish. It turns out that two independent sources have confirmed to the Telegraph that a dentist from Minnesota, Walter Palmer, is responsible for the majestic beast's death. “As far as I understand, Walter believes that he might have shot that lion that has been referred to as Cecil,” a spokesman for Palmer told 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.” Palmer reportedly paid roughly $55,000 for a chance to kill Cecil, hiring several guides for a private hunting trip. According to a Facebook post, the professional hunter enlisted for the safari, Theo Bronkhorst, has had his membership for the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association suspended indefinitely. Both Bronkhorst and the landowner of the surrounding area (who allowed the hunter to lure the lion onto his land for killing) are due to appear in court, facing charges of poaching. Cecil's death isn't just a blow to the nation, as the beloved lion was almost iconic in Zimbabwe; Cecil was also the father to six cubs, who will most likely be killed by Jericho, the next lion in the hierarchy, in order to create his own pride, authorities say. No word yet on what repercussions await Palmer; after the story broke, plenty of angry commenters took over his practice's Facebook page. In the past, he has been photographed with a 175 pound leopard in Zimbabwe, a California Bighorn in Nevada, and a Roosevelt elk, as depicted on one hunting blog.