Letter to patients from Minnesota dentist reviled in Cecil the lion killing

Bloomington, Minn. dentist Dr. Walter Palmer has garnered international outrage over his connection to the killing of Zimbabwe's beloved lion, Cecil, and in a letter to his patients, he reaffirms he "had no idea" the lion was so revered and contends he trusted his guides to conduct a legal hunt.

"To my valued patients: As you may have already heard, I have been in the news over the last few days for reasons that have nothing to do with my profession or the care I provide for you. I want you to know of this situation and my involvement In addition to spending time with my family, one of my passions outside dentistry is hunting. I’ve been a life-long hunter since I was a child growing up in North Dakota. I don’t often talk about hunting with my patients because it can be a divisive and emotionally charged topic. I understand and respect that not everyone shares the same views on hunting.

In early July, I was in Zimbabwe on a bow hunting trip for big game. I hired several professional guides and they secured all proper permits. To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted. 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. I have not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the U.S. about this situation, but will assist them in any inquiries they may have.

Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion. That was never my intention. The media interest in this matter – along with a substantial number of comments and calls from people who are angered by this situation and by the practice of hunting in general – has disrupted our business and our ability to see our patients. For that disruption, I apologize profoundly for this inconvenience and promise you that we will do our best to resume normal operations as soon as possible. We are working to have patients with immediate needs referred to other dentists and will keep you informed of any additional developments. On behalf of all of us at River Bluff Dental, thank you for your support.

Sincerely, Walter J. Palmer, DDS River Bluff Dental"

Shades closed at dental practice

The shades at Palmer's dental practice, River Bluff Dental, were drawn on Tuesday. A dental staffer told Fox 9 it would likely be closed for the remainder of the week, and its website and Facebook presence has been removed. Meanwhile, people from all over the country have flooded his practice's Yelp page to compose nasty reviews and various hate messages.

His dental practice on Rhode Island Avenue has a herd of stuffed animals on the doorstep, and a planned protest by local Animal Rights Coalition will ensue there this afternoon.

What happened

Cecil was baited at night with a dead animal tied to a car and lured away from the park, then shot with a bow and arrow. He was reportedly found about 40 hours later by trackers and was shot with a gun, beheaded and skinned. Professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst and landowner Honest Trymore Ndlovu each face felony poaching charges.

Bronkhorst pleaded not guilty to failing to prevent an unlawful hunt and Ndlovu will appear before a judge at a later date. Zimbabwe wildlife officials said Palmer has also been accused of poaching.

BACKSTORY - Minnesota dentist believed Zimbabwe lion killing was legal

Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe president Emmanuel Fundira said at a news conference that Palmer is the wanted hunter, and authorities don't know where he is.

Organizers admitted the hunt was poorly planned, and Bronkhorst reported the "mistake" to the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority the next day. Authorities also stated "the lion trophy has also been confiscated."

"Ongoing investigations to date, suggest that the killing of the lion was illegal since the land owner was not allocated a lion on his hunting quota for 2015. Therefore, all persons implicated in this case are due to appear in court facing poaching charges," Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said in a statement. 

"In this case, both the professional hunter and land owner had no permit or quota to justify the offtake of the lion and therefore are liable for the illegal hunt," the statement continues.

Gov. Dayton: 'Just appalled'

At a news conference addressing tourism on Lake Mille Lacs, Gov. Mark Dayton was probed for a comment on Cecil.

“I’m just disgusted as I think most people are," he said. "To lure any lion out and to shoot that animal, magnificent animal in cold blood is just to me, why anyone could think that’s something they would be proud of, and this iconic lion, it’s just appalling. Just appalled.” 

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