A Minnesota dentist is facing a wave of internet outrage after being named as the hunter behind the death of Cecil the lion.
Walter Palmer, a dentist and avid hunter from Bloomington, Minn., was identified as the hunter who killed Cecil, a beloved and popular attraction in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park, by The Telegraph on Tuesday. He is thought to have paid approximately $50,000 US ($64,600 Cdn) to shoot the lion with a bow and arrow. The animal was later beheaded and skinned.
Two men, a professional hunter and a farm owner, face poaching charges in Zimbabwe in connection to Cecil's death. Killing the lion was illegal, because the farm owner didn't have a hunting permit, according to a joint statement from the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority and the Safari Operators Association.
The hunters used a dead animal tied to their car to lure Cecil out of the national park, according to the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force. The technique is often employed so that a protected animal can be "legally" killed.
Palmer is believed to have injured Cecil with his bow before tracking him for 40 hours and finishing him off with a gun, said Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the task force. The lion's skinned and headless body was found along with Cecil's tracking collar, which Rodrigues said the hunters tried to destroy. The lion had been part of a long-running Oxford University study.
Tuesday afternoon Palmer issued a statement saying he regretted that his hunt led to Cecil's death, but that to the best of his knowledge everything about his trip was legal.
Palmer was the subject of a 2009 New York Times story about hunting a record-setting elk. The newspaper reported at the time that Palmer had pleaded guilty to making a false statement to federal wildlife officials in relation to the killing of a black bear in Wisconsin.
Users on Twitter and other social media services expressed outrage at Palmer. Glenn Greenwald, the reporter behind the Edward Snowden story, was among Palmer's harshest critics, calling for his extradition to Zimbabwe.
It's deeply insecure & inadequate men attempting to compensate & derive self-esteem through cowardice & slaughter. https://t.co/BEOo1ZlTH1— @ggreenwald
Comedian and animal-rights activist Ricky Gervais also weighed in on the story.
It's not for food. It's not the shooting, or tin cans would do. It must just be the thrill of killing. Mental. http://t.co/0fjtXoC1ML— @rickygervais
Greenwald noted that Palmer's voicemail had already filled up, presumably with angry messages, and expressed his hope that the Telegraph had found the right man.
The rage directed at Palmer was not limited to his voicemail. As of Tuesday afternoon, the website for his practice was crashed, its Yelp page plastered with outraged comments and its Twitter profile deleted.
Reporters have camped out at Palmer's office and home.
Dental practice belonging to controversial big game hunter Walter Palmer completely locked down. All shades drawn. pic.twitter.com/opvzJp8ea9— @PaulBlume_FOX9
It didn't take long for many to comment that this appears to be the latest example of the swiftness with which shame is now meted out on social networks.
I'm against online mobs as a general rule, but Walter Palmer deserves all of the public shaming: http://t.co/nbRMeurIAB— @JillFilipovic
I have never supported an Internet mob as much as I support the Internet mob coming for Dr. Walter Palmer— @eliasisquith
Tourists regularly spotted Cecil and his characteristic mane over the past 13 years, according to the conservation group Lion Aid.
Rodrigues told CBC Radio's As It Happens that the death is a double tragedy because the male that takes Cecil's place in his pride will almost certainly kill the dead lion's cubs. Rodrigues told The Guardian that Cecil's six male cubs are likely doomed, exponentially increasing the death toll for the trophy hunt.