The US dentist whose killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe fuelled a global backlash has emerged for an interview in which he disputed some accounts of the hunt.
Walter Palmer also expressed agitation at the animosity directed at those close to him and said he will returning to work today at his Minneapolis dental practice.
The interview was conducted jointly by The Associated Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune and advisers said it would be the only one granted.
Palmer said he believes he acted legally and that he was stunned to find out his hunting party had killed one of Zimbabwe’s treasured animals.
“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,” he said.
“Nobody in our hunting party knew before or after the name of this lion.”
Cecil had been a fixture in the vast Hwange National Park and had been fitted with a GPS collar as part of Oxford University lion research.
Palmer said he shot the lion using an arrow from his compound bow outside the park’s borders but it did not die immediately.
He disputed conservationists’ accounts that the wounded lion then wandered for 40 hours and was finished off with a gun, saying it was tracked down the next day and killed with an arrow.
Palmer refused to say how much he paid for the hunt, or discuss others he has undertaken.
Some high-level Zimbabwean officials have called for Palmer’s extradition, but no formal steps toward getting the dentist to return to the country have been publicly disclosed.
Palmer’s adviser, Joe Friedberg, a Minneapolis lawyer, said he has heard nothing from authorities about domestic or international investigations since early August.
After Palmer was named in late July as the hunter who killed Cecil, his Bloomington clinic and Eden Prairie home became protest sites.
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