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Backlash over lion's killing forces MN dentist to temporarily close practice

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A Minnesota dentist has gone from "hunter to hunted," CNN describes, after he said he "deeply regrets" killing Cecil, a famed African lion earlier this month.

Cecil's death has sparked outrage across the globe, and now Dr. Walter Palmer – who hasn't been charged with a crime – is feeling the backlash, forcing him to close his dental practice for the time being, according to a letter he wrote to patients that was published by FOX 9.

Palmer wrote:

"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."

In the letter, he said River Bluff Dental will work to have patients with immediate needs referred to other dentists.

Palmer also addressed his passion for hunting, noting he often doesn't discuss it with his patients because "it can be a divisive and emotionally charged topic."

Emotions have been high since accusations against Palmer surfaced Tuesday morning, and has led to people gathering outside his dental office 

" target="_blank">Wednesday morning to protest his actions.

Another "peaceful" demonstration is planned for the afternoon, organized by Twin Cities-based Animal Rights Coalition who will protest "the death of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, along with the many other 'big game' animals killed by [Palmer]," the group wrote on Facebook.

Police have increased their presence around the dental office in light of the planned protests, the Star Tribune reports.

Internet seeks revenge

On Tuesday, after news began spreading that Palmer was involved in the killing of a 13-year-old research lion, River Bluff Dental closed and its Facebook page and website were shutdown after being inundated with negative comments and violent threats.

After those were shut down, people turned to the dental office's Yelp page, leaving harsh words about the dentist and his practice.

By Tuesday afternoon, the sidewalk outside Palmer's dental office was turned into a makeshift shrine, complete with a stuffed lion and other toy animals. Stuffed animals were also left at Palmer's Eden Prairie home.

People around the globe continue to express their anger on Twitter, seeking revenge for Cecil, calling Palmer a "coward, "a poor excuse of a human being," "a killer," and even "Satan," CNN notes.

A look at big game hunting

The outrage over Cecil's death has prompted some to look at the bigger picture of big game hunting. Hundreds of thousands of people have signed an online "Justice for Cecil" petition, asking the Zimbabwe government to stop issuing hunting permits for endangered animals.

Late-night talkshow host Jimmy Kimmel also addressed the issue, choking up while asking people to avoid the witch hunt for Palmer and turn this event into something good by donating to Oxford University’s conservation program, the organization that had been tracking the lion.

In light of the uproar over Palmer's actions, The Washington Post took a look a big game hunting – a controversial sport that draws not only Palmer, but thousands of Americans, to the African Savanna every year in search for an exotic trophy.

Those against it question the morality of shooting and killing an animal just to bring a trophy back home, but those who participate in the sport find pride in their kills, many posting photos with the dead animals on Facebook, the Washington Post notes.

Palmer, who has been an avid big game hunter for years, has done the same. He was featured in a 2009 New York Times story about his successes, and his kills have also been well documented on the Internet.

Palmer also made headlines when he was sentenced to a year of probation after pleading guilty to charges that he made a false statement to federal wildlife officials regarding a black bear hunt in Wisconsin in 2008, WEAU reported.

But those headlines are nowhere near as critical of the sport and Palmer himself as they have been this week following the news that Palmer reportedly paid more than $50,000 to hunt and kill a lion in Zimbabwe.

Two Zimbabwean men – Theo Bronchorst, a professional hunter, and Honest Trymore Ndlovuand, a farm owner — have been charged with poaching and appeared in Zimbabwe court Wednesday, accused of helping Palmer hunt the famed lion after luring the animal out of Hwange National Park earlier this month.

Officials in Zimbabwe have said they're looking to speak with Palmer. That prompted him to release a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying he believed everything about the hunt was legal, adding he hasn't been contacted by investigators in the U.S. or Zimbabwe, but will assist them with any inquiries they have.

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