9 Sep 2015

Cecil the lion's killer returns to work as dentist

10:16 am on 9 September 2015

The US dentist who generated an outcry after killing a lion called Cecil in Zimbabwe has returned to his dental practice after weeks in hiding.

Dentist and trophy hunter Dr. Walter Palmer walks into his clinic.

Dentist and trophy hunter Dr. Walter Palmer walks into his clinic. Photo: AFP

Walter Palmer arrived at work at 7am local time (midnight NZT) where a throng of media and a few protesters awaited him.

Employees were seen escorting Mr Palmer and patients into the surgery, as photographers swarmed the office.

In recent interviews, he has claimed that the hunt was legal and that he was shocked to hear the animal was famous.

Police were present as the dentists parked his vehicle on a nearby street and walked into his office in Bloomington, Minnesota. A staff member clutched his arm as the pair pushed past a group of journalists.

One woman could be heard screaming "Extradite Palmer!"

Mr Palmer did not speak to the media on Tuesday, but did give an interview to the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Sunday.

"I need to get back to treating my patients," Mr Palmer said. "My staff and my patients support me, and they want me back. That's why I'm back."

Much-loved Zimbabwean lion "Cecil" -pictured here in 2012 - was allegedly killed by an American tourist using a bow and arrow.

Much-loved Zimbabwean lion "Cecil" -pictured here in 2012 - was allegedly killed by an American tourist. Photo: AFP

The killing of Cecil in July prompted a global uproar, which Mr Palmer has claimed led to "some safety issues" for his family.

His clinic and his home in nearby Eden Prairie became the site of protests, and his holiday home in Florida was vandalised.

The 55-year-old is believed to have been paid $50,000 (£32,000) to hunt a lion in Zimbabwe's largest game reserve, but he says he was unaware it was so famous.

"If I had known this lion had a name and was important to the country or a study obviously I wouldn't have taken it," Mr Palmer said. "Nobody in our hunting party knew before or after the name of this lion."

Cecil was well known in the Hwange National Park and was being tracked with a GPS collar as part of a research programme run by Oxford University.

The Zimbabwe's safari organisation has said the way in which Cecil was lured out of a national park was unethical and possibly illegal.

Initially, Zimbabwe sought to charge and extradite Mr Palmer, but the government's interest in him has waned in recent weeks.

The Associated Press news agency reported that government officials fear it could hamper a hunting industry that is lucrative and important for the country.

Protesters gathered outside Dr Walter Palmer's clinic in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Photo: AFP

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