The internet is an uproar after a Minnesotan dentist shot and killed a well-known lion during an illegal hunt just outside Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.
Since the story broke a few days ago, Walter Palmer—the midwesterner accused of shooting and beheading “Cecil the Lion” after his paid guides lured the animal from the safe confines of the national park—has become a household name around the globe and the target of extreme outrage.
Palmer maintains that he had no prior knowledge of the animal’s status as a Zimbabwean national symbol at the time of the shooting and insists that his guides, whom he paid more than $50,000 to orchestrate the hunt, procured all the proper permits before baiting the animal out of its national park home.
“I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt,” he said in a statement on Tuesday. “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. Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion.”
Authorities in Zimbabwe are singing a different tune.
Palmer is believed to be back in the United States now, but the two Zimbabwean guides who helped him hunt down and ultimately kill Cecil have been charged with poaching, and, according to the BBC, could face up to 15 years if convicted.
Conservationist say Cecil’s cubs now face a significant risk of infanticide as competing male lion’s within Cecil’s pride attempt to gain control of his former territory.