Walter Palmer, a dentist and all-around piece of shit from Minnesota, is said to have paid $55,000 to kill a beloved 13-year-old Zimbabwean lion, nicknamed Cecil, who had been wearing a collar as a part of a long-running Oxford University research project.

Since animals cannot legally be killed within the confines of Hwange National Park, where Cecil lived with his pride, he was lured out in the middle of the night by Palmer and professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst, who later reported the incident—Bronkhorst implied that the essential mistake made was that “we did not know it was well-known lion.” Palmer shot Cecil (pictured below) with a bow and arrow, and finished the job 40 hours later with a gun. The hunters attempted to remove the lion’s collar, and he was left skinned and headless outside the park. His cubs will likely die too, when Jericho, Cecil’s successor, takes his place at the head of the pride.

Bow-and-arrow hunting is apparently on the rise in Zimbabwe, according to The Telegraph, because “it is silent and therefore those hunting illegally or unethically are not detected by the authorities.” Bronkhurst and the owner of the land on which Cecil was killed are facing criminal charges, according to a statement by Zimbabwe National Parks: “Theo Bronkhorst, a professional hunter with Bushman Safaris, is facing criminal charges for allegedly killing a collared lion on Antoinette farm in Gwayi Conservancy, Hwange district on 1 July 2015.”

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“He never bothered anybody,” Johnny Rodrigues, head of Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, told The Telegraph of Cecil. “He was one of the most beautiful animals to look at.” It’s been reported that Cecil was an especially easy target because he was relatively friendly, and comfortable around humans. A spokesman for Palmer told The Guardian that his client was “obviously quite upset over everything.”

“As far as I understand, Walter believes that he might have shot that lion that has been referred to as Cecil. What he’ll tell you is that he had the proper legal permits and he had hired several professional guides, so he’s not denying that he may be the person who shot this lion. He is a big-game hunter; he hunts the world over.”

He certainly is. As The Telegraph points out, the internet is quite rich with photographs of Palmer, who has a wife and two children, grinning with the many, many beautiful (and often endangered) animals he has butchered for sport (including a white rhino). In fact, Palmer has made an appearance in the New York Times, where he receives an apparently glowing mention:

As the 2009 season approached, Walter J. Palmer, a dentist in his late 40s from Eden Prairie, Minn., paid $45,000 for a tag at an auction to finance preservation of the elk habitat. Palmer, said to be capable of skewering a playing card from 100 yards with his compound bow, has cultivated a purist’s reputation for his disinclination to carry firearms as backup. Learning to shoot at age 5, he has slain all but one of the animals recognized by Pope and Young.

In the same piece, written in 2009, the Times also mentioned Palmer’s willingness to skirt the laws restricting his hobby:

As the season began, Palmer was completing a year of probation. In 2008, court records show, he pleaded guilty to making a false statement to federal wildlife officials concerning the exact location of the slaying of a black bear during a guided hunt in Wisconsin. In his sentencing order, prosecutors had specifically agreed that the “defendant shall be permitted to possess archery equipment for lawful sporting purposes.”

Palmer is described on his website as having “a unique talent for creating dazzling smiles that complement each individuals tooth structure, skin tone, and facial attributes.” It continues: “Dr. Palmer is married with two children. He is a North Dakotan and enjoys all outdoor activities. Anything allowing him to stay active and observe and photograph wildlife is where you will find Dr. Palmer when he not in the office.”

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Since this story broke, Palmer’s Yelp page—which previously only featured four reviews—has exploded with angry posts.

The Facebook page for his dentistry practice has been removed after thousands of comments proliferated. An ad on YouTube for River Bluff Dental, Palmer’s Bloomington, MN practice, has been taken down as well; here is a screenshot of the first few comments that appeared:

A YouTube video of Palmer discussing his dental practice remains up, and has gone viral:

It’s tough to feel much empathy for this terrible man’s dental career, which appears to be deservedly at risk. The sad fact is, while what he did was almost certainly illegal, big game hunting is big business, and often operates under the full protection of the law. Why are these animals perceived as more valuable dead than alive—when in fact, if we’re strictly talking monetary value, the lion that was killed for $55 grand would have brought millions of tourism dollars to the nature reserve?

The killing of animals for sport is a hard thing to read about, and a hard thing to write about, as well. It is just so acutely depressing, because these beautiful, emotionally complex creatures are so utterly at the mercy of the worst of us—those idiots who, in an infinitely pathetic play at bravery and sportsmanship, continue to stubbornly assert dominance over mammals who lost the battle for this planet around the time when our ancestors learned to make tools. Aren’t we already doing enough to destroy their world? Must we pick them off one by one, too?


Contact the author at ellie@jezebel.com.

Images via screenshots.