An American dentist with an affinity for killing rare wildlife using a bow and arrow has been identified as the man who shot and killed Zimbabwe's most famous lion earlier this month, local officials claim.
Dr. Walter Palmer, a dentist working in Bloomington, Minnesota, is said to have paid $55,000 to hunt the 13-year-old lion, named Cecil, according to a report from The Telegraph. The animal was allegedly lured with meat out of Hwange National Park -- a protected area that bans hunting -- into an adjacent hunting zone where he was shot with an arrow. The lion was then followed for 40 hours before he was ultimately killed with a rifle.
The Zimbabwe tourism department also sent out a tweet early Tuesday identifying Palmer as the man who killed Cecil, using the hashtag #illegalhunt.
The Huffington Post reached out to Palmer for comment via Facebook before the page for his practice was removed from the site. The phone at his dental office has remained off the hook since the hunter's name was first published, and a Yelp profile associated with the practice has been flooded with hundreds of negative reviews.
A spokesman for the hunter told the Guardian that Palmer was “obviously quite upset over everything.”
“As far as I understand, Walter believes that he might have shot that lion that has been referred to as Cecil,” the spokesman said. “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.”
The Facebook page for the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association posted a statement noting the hunter who led the campaign against Cecil was a member of its group, and has since been suspended indefinitely. The hunter, identified as Theo Bronkhorst, was placed under arrest earlier this month after reporting the "mistake," along with the landowner of the hunting area. Both are due in court on Aug. 6 for poaching charges.
"It was a magnificent, mature lion. We did not know it was well-known lion. I had a license for my client to shoot a lion with a bow and arrow in the area where it was shot," Bronkhorst said.
The African lion is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and classified as moderately protected under CITES -- an international wildlife protection agreement -- but is allowed to be hunted in some countries. Trophies can be easily imported into the U.S. as long as a CITES export document is obtained from the country the animal was killed in.
However, if there were any evidence to show a trophy was illegally obtained, a hunter could be found in violation of the Lacey Act, and face civil fines and criminal sanctions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
This isn't the first time Palmer has come under fire for his hunting techniques. In 2008, he was placed on probation for one year and fined $2,939 after lying to federal authorities twice about where he shot a black bear in Wisconsin.
“This is a case where the cover up is [worse] than the crime, because if he had immediately came to his senses and admitted what he had done, he would probably be facing a citation or a misdemeanor [instead of a felony]," a prosecuting attorney said during the case.
You can take a look at several graphic photos of Palmer posing with some of his trophies here.
Also on HuffPost: