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Cecil the Lion’s Killer, a U.S. Dentist and Avid Trophy Hunter, Gets Death Threats

Minnesota Dentist Walter Palmer outed as the trophy-hunting tourist who shot Cecil the lion, a 13-year-old beloved fixture at Zimbabwe national park.
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Cecil the lion was lured from his protected national refuge in Zimbabwe and gunned down by … a dentist from the United States.

The world is shocked and saddened, and Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer has expressed “regret,” but it would seem that is more due to Cecil’s celebrity than his former status as a sentient being. The majestic creature was certainly not treated as one.

First, said the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, Palmer—self-described as an avid trophy hunter who is proud of having killed numerous animals for sport—along with his hunting guide, Theo Bronkhorst, lured Cecil out of Hwange National Park. They did this “by tying a dead animal to their vehicle” and scenting an area “about half a kilometer from the park,” the task force said in a statement.

That’s barely a third of a mile, folks. It can be measured in yards—547, to be exact—or even feet, which numbered 1,640. But it gets worse.

“Mr. Palmer shot Cecil with a bow and arrow, but this shot didn't kill him,” wrote Conservation Task Force Chairman Johnny Rodrigues in the statement. “They tracked him down and found him 40 hours later, when they shot him with a gun.”

This meant that Cecil died slowly and painfully, Rodrigues told CNN. It was only after he was dead that the hunters got close enough to see the tracking collar around the lion’s soon-to-be-severed neck.

“They found that he was fitted with a GPS collar because he was being studied by the Hwange Lion Research, funded by Oxford University, so they tried to destroy the collar but failed because it was found,” said the task force’s statement. “Cecil was skinned and beheaded. We don't know the whereabouts of the head.”

At first the identity of the killer had been a mystery, and speculation had swirled that the deed had been wrought by a Spaniard. But once the trackers had been tracked down, they fingered Palmer, who paid $50,000 for the hunt. For his part, Palmer has said he thought the hunt was legal, thereby dodging responsibility for his choice of target—though again, not for killing something—and throwing his hunter guides under the bus.

“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,” said Palmer in a statement released to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion."

That last phrase grabbed Jimmy Kimmel as he teared up onstage on Tuesday July 28.

“Stop saying you took the animal!” he said in his opening monologue, quoted by E! Online. “You take aspirin! You killed the lion! You didn't take it!”

Palmer has "taken" many an animal, among them a rhino, a leopard, a splendidly antlered elk and even a bighorn sheep, according to a grisly gallery posted by the New York Daily News.

Photo: TROPHYHUNTAMERICA.SMUGMUG.COM via New York Daily News

Walter Palmer, right, poses with one of his trophy kills.

Celebrities the world over have expressed everything from outrage to heartbreak, reported E! Online. And the dentist himself is now being threatened with the same fate that he has doled out to so many of our four-legged brothers and sisters, according to the International Business Times. His dental practice is shuttered, and only partly because it’s being slammed on Yelp. It has instead turned into a shrine piled with stuffed animals, notes The Telegraph.

Repercussions extend beyond the one hunt, since Cecil's death has endangered the lives of other lions as well, the task force lamented.

“The saddest part of all is that now that Cecil is dead, the next lion in the heirarchy, Jericho, will most likely kill all Cecil's cubs so that he can insert his own bloodline into the females,” said the conservation task force’s statement. “This is standard procedure for lions.”