The wrath of the Internet has descended upon Walter Palmer, the Minneapolis-area dentist who has acknowledged killing Cecil, a star lion of Zimbabwe’s national park system. So fierce were the attacks that Palmer’s dental office abruptly shut its doors and its Facebook page was made unavailable. Palmer’s whereabouts were unknown and it has been reported he has hired a public relations firm. (Good luck with that.)
Given the account of Zimbabwe conservation officials — that Cecil was illegally lured from his sanctuary, shot with an arrow and then tracked for 40 hours before being shot, skinned and decapitated — the outrage is understandable. That’s not to suggest in any way that any harm should come to Palmer; only that it’s fitting that this big-time hunter might now know a little of what it is like to be on the other end of things.
In a statement released to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Palmer expressed regret, insisting he believed his actions to be legal. “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,” the statement read. “I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion.”
It will be up to the authorities to sort out the truth, but one has to wonder what Palmer did when the study collar on the lion was detected.
Apparently it didn’t interfere with the trophy being taken. Nor did it prompt anyone to notify the authorities.
Those of us who are not hunters will never be able to understand the attraction of killing something as beautiful as this animal — and paying $50,000 to do so.
One can hope, though, that this travesty will cause trophy hunters to do some soul-searching about their sport.
And the rest of us need to ask ourselves the hard question of whether we would have cared about this lion if he didn’t have a name.
Jo-Ann Armao is an editorial writer for The Washington Post.