The Minnesota dentist who is the target of international outrage for killing a beloved lion in Zimbabwe wrote a letter to his patients this week apologizing for any inconvenience the media attention has caused.
Dr. Walter Palmer lured Cecil the lion with a dead animal attached to a car during a hunting trip with guides. The lion was shot with a bow and arrow and then a gun before he was beheaded and skinned. In the letter, published by Fox 9, Palmer explains that he had no idea the lion was part of a study and that he will cooperate with U.S. and Zimbabwean authorities.
Here is the letter's full text:
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
River Bluff Dental has taken down its Facebook page and website. The dentist's Yelp page is filled with hate messages from people accusing Palmer of murder.
The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said in a statement that the killing of Cecil was likely illegal: "Ongoing investigations to date, suggest that the killing of the lion was illegal since the land owner was not allocated a lion on his hunting quota for 2015. Therefore, all persons implicated in this case are due to appear in court facing poaching charges."