Dentist Who Killed Cecil The Lion Writes Apology To Patients

The lion's death has "nothing to do with my profession," he says.
Minneapolis Star Tribune via Getty Images

The Minnesota dentist scorned worldwide for killing a beloved lion in Zimbabwe wrote a letter expressing regret over the animal's death and also for the disruption to his patients' treatment since he attained infamy.

Dr. Walter Palmer claimed to be completely unaware of Cecil the lion's esteemed status at Hwange National Park, according to the apology that was obtained by KMSP-TV on Wednesday.

Palmer wrote that he thought the hunt was on the up-and-up after paying $55,000 to hunt a lion with a bow and arrow. But in actuality, Cecil was lured from the park, stalked for 40 hours, shot with a rifle and decapitated. Only afterward, Palmer said, did he learn that Cecil was a prized 13-year-old male lion from the park.

To my valued patients: As you may have already heard, I have been in the news over the last few days for reasons that have nothing to do with my profession or the care I provide for you. I want you to know of this situation and my involvement In addition to spending time with my family, one of my passions outside dentistry is hunting. I’ve been a life-long hunter since I was a child growing up in North Dakota. I don’t often talk about hunting with my patients because it can be a divisive and emotionally charged topic. I understand and respect that not everyone shares the same views on hunting.

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. 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. I have not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the U.S. about this situation, but will assist them in any inquiries they may have.

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 was never my intention. The media interest in this matter – along with a substantial number of comments and calls from people who are angered by this situation and by the practice of hunting in general – has disrupted our business and our ability to see our patients. For that disruption, I apologize profoundly for this inconvenience and promise you that we will do our best to resume normal operations as soon as possible. We are working to have patients with immediate needs referred to other dentists and will keep you informed of any additional developments. On behalf of all of us at River Bluff Dental, thank you for your support.

Sincerely, Walter J. Palmer, DDS River Bluff Dental

Cecil, who donned a GPS collar for a University of Oxford research project, was skinned and beheaded. Outrage immediately surged against Palmer after he was identified as the shooter. It prompted him to temporarily close his practice and shutter the blinds -- but that didn't stop people from setting up a makeshift memorial for Cecil outside Palmer's office.

While Palmer says he has not been confronted by authorities regarding the incident, Reuters reports that Theo Bronkhorst, the Zimbabwean hunter who allowed Cecil's death, has been charged with "failing to supervise, control and take reasonable steps to prevent an unlawful hunt."

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