MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota dentist whose killing of Cecil the lion sparked a global backlash emerged for an interview in which he disputed some accounts of the hunt, expressed agitation at the animosity directed at those close to him and said he would be back at work within days.

Walter Palmer, who has spent more than a month out of sight after becoming the target of protests and threats, intends to return to his suburban Minneapolis dental practice Tuesday. In an interview Sunday evening conducted jointly by The Associated Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Palmer said again that 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,” Palmer said. “Nobody in our hunting party knew before or after the name of this lion.”

DETAILS OF LION’S DEATH DISPUTED

Cecil was 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 big cat with the black mane using an arrow from his compound bow outside the park’s borders, but it didn’t die immediately. He disputed conservationist accounts that the wounded lion wandered for 40 hours and was finished off with a gun, saying it was tracked down the next day and killed with an arrow.

An avid sportsman, Palmer shut off several lines of inquiry about the hunt, including how much he paid for it or others he has undertaken. No videotaping or photographing of the 25-minute interview was allowed. Palmer gazed intensely at his questioners, often fiddling with his hands and turning occasionally to an adviser, Joe Friedberg, to field questions about the fallout and his legal situation.

Some high-level Zimbabwean officials have called for Palmer’s extradition, but no formal steps toward getting the dentist to return to Zimbabwe have been publicly disclosed. Friedberg, a Minneapolis attorney who said he is acting as an unpaid consultant to Palmer, said he has heard nothing from authorities about domestic or international investigations since early August.

FEELING SAFE ENOUGH TO WORK

After Palmer was named in late July as the hunter who killed Cecil, his Bloomington clinic and Eden Prairie home became protest sites, and a vacation property he owns in Florida was vandalized. Palmer has been vilified across social media, with some posts suggesting violence against him.

He described himself as “heartbroken” for causing disruptions for staff at his clinic, which was shuttered for weeks until reopening in late August without him on the premises. And he said the ordeal has been especially hard on his wife and adult daughter, who both felt threatened.

“I don’t understand that level of humanity to come after people not involved at all,” Palmer said.

As for himself, he said he feels safe enough to return to work – “My staff and my patients support me and they want me back” – but declined to say where he’s spent the past six weeks or describe security steps he has taken.

“I’ve been out of the public eye. That doesn’t mean I’m in hiding,” Palmer said. “I’ve been among people, family and friends. Location is really not that important.”

Asked whether he would return to Zimbabwe for future hunts, Palmer said, “I don’t know about the future.” He estimated he had been there four times and said, “Zimbabwe has been a wonderful country for me to hunt in, and I have always followed the laws.”

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.