Angry citizens gathered outside the Bloomington dental office belonging to Dr. Walter Palmer Wednesday to protest his killing of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe.
The road outside of the River Bluff Dental Practice was closed to allow the rally to take place, and there was a significant presence from Bloomington Police to ensure the demonstration proceeded peacefully.
Such has been the anger against the 55-year-old doctor since it emerged he was responsible for killing Cecil, the 13-year-old African lion, on a hunting trip earlier this month that a bomb-sniffing dog was taken around the closed clinic as the protests ramped up, FOX 9 reports.
BBC Washington's Gary O'Donoghue reports that several protesters pinned signs to the office's front entrance, including those saying: "Rot in Hell," "Walter Palmer – The Butcher of Bloomington," and "Palmer, there's a deep cavity waiting for you."
Others carried placards saying "Killer," among other things, including one calling for his extradition to Zimbabwe.
Among those in attendance was artist Mark Balma, who painted a huge mural of Cecil in the parking lot as protesters gathered; he told the Star Tribune it was his form of "silent protest."
Palmer has become the subject of worldwide condemnation after it emerged he shot the lion with a bow and arrow and later killed it with a gun after the animal had been illegally lured with bait out of the Hwange National Park on July 6.
Palmer released a statement Tuesday saying he had not known Cecil was a well-known lion and had been collared as part of an Oxford University research study. He said he "deeply regrets" his actions as he thought he was taking part in a legal hunt.
Palmer has appeared on the front pages of newspapers across the globe and has drawn criticism from television personalities such as Jimmy Kimmel, while his business has been targeted through Facebook and the review site Yelp.
Palmer, who is an experienced big game hunter, and his hunting guide have both been suspended by Safari Club International pending the outcome of the investigation into the incident.
SCI, which says its missions are "protecting hunters' rights and promoting wildlife conservation," posted the news on its website Wednesday afternoon.
"Safari Club International condemns unlawful and unethical hunting practices. SCI supports only legal hunting practices and those who comply with all applicable hunting rules and regulations, and SCI believes that those who intentionally take wildlife illegally should be prosecuted and punished to the maximum extent allowed by law."
Criminal proceedings started Wednesday against Palmer's hunting guide and the owner of the land where the animal was killed (see below) over their involvement in the killing of Cecil, who was later decapitated and skinned.
Zimbabwe police also want to speak with Palmer as part of their poaching investigation, KARE 11 reports, and though he has expressed a willingness to work with authorities on the investigation, he has not yet been contacted.
Federal officials probe, Dayton's 'disgust'
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has said it is "deeply concerned" about Cecil's killing, and will be gathering more information about Dr. Palmer's involvement with it.
"We are currently gathering facts about the issue and will assist Zimbabwe officials in whatever manner requested," a spokeswoman told Reuters. "It is up to all of us – not just the people of Africa – to ensure that healthy, wild populations of animals continue to roam the savanna for generations to come."
The Humane Society on Wednesday called on the Fish and Wildlife Service to list the African lion as "endangered" in the wake of Cecil's killing, which would result in the import of lion trophies and parts becoming regulated.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton also weighed in on the controversy during a press conference on Wednesday, telling reporters: "It's horrible, I'm just disgusted with that man," according to KSTP's Tom Hauser.
"How could anybody think that's sport? It's appalling," he added, WCCO's Matt Kessler reports.
Hunting guide released on bail
The two men accused of leading an illegal hunt of Cecil the lion appeared in court Wednesday – with one released on bail and the other released from custody.
The Associated Press reports that professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst and farm owner Honest Trymore Ndlovu appeared accused of being involved in an "unlawful hunt," using bait to lure the lion out of Hwange National Park so Palmer could shoot him.
Bronkhorst was released on a $1,000 bail at Hwange Magistrates' Court. Ndlovu has not been charged with anything and was released from custody, AP notes, but the BBC reports he will re-appear in court at a later date.
The court documents made no mention of Palmer and it is unclear at this stage what action will be taken against the Eden Prairie resident.
Is there any way back for Palmer?
With Dr. Palmer becoming the target of international outrage and his dental business being the subject of thousands of angry messages and online posts, the Business Journal has turned its attention to how he is dealing with it.
It notes he hired the services Twin Cities PR specialist Jon Austin, who it speculates was responsible for the statement issued on the doctor's behalf Tuesday afternoon, apologizing for his role in what he thought was a "legal hunt," and for not realizing the lion was protected.
This was a good first step, Minneapolis PR strategist Stacy Bettison told the website, and said that the next one would be to make a donation toward lion preservation efforts.
This was echoed by Texas communications expert Mike Crawford, President of M/C/C, but when asked whether he would take Palmer on as a client, he said: "I would not even want to touch this."
The Star Tribune spoke with Dennis Dunn, a Washington state-based hunter, author and long-time acquaintance of Palmer's, who defended the dentist's passion for big-game hunting.
He described him as a "very driven man" with great skill at bow and arrow hunting, which he says is Palmer's "great passion."
He also said that trophy hunting isn't a risk-free pursuit, saying it's a "challenge ... pitting man, as a predator, against other predators. You're subjecting yourself to significant risk," adding that the animals being hunted are generally near the end of their lives.