Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist, who was forced to shutter his dental practice after he was identified as the killer of Zimbabwe's beloved Cecil the lion, returned to work on Tuesday.
"I need to get back to my staff and my patients, and they want me back," Mr. Palmer told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Palmer closed his Blommingotn, Minn., practice in July after he was identified as the hunter who shot a rare, black-maned lion in the Hwange National Park. Cecil, named after Cecil Rhodes, the explorer, was being monitored by Oxford University researchers via a GPS collar. His death sparked a global surge of protests on social media. Some protesters set up outside his office and the dentist has said that he even received some death threats.
In a joint interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Associated Press held Monday, the dentist maintained the position that he has held since July: that the hunt was legal, and that nobody in the hunting party realized the targeted trophy kill was Cecil.
Joe Friedberg, Palmer’s attorney, told the Star Tribune, “Everything was done properly. This was a legal hunt for a lion in Zimbabwe. And because of the professionalism of the people who had to help him, a lion was taken.”
Zimbabwean authorities have labeled Palmer a “foreign poacher” and are seeking his extradition, though those efforts seem to have stalled. The global uproar over Cecil’s death spurred US senators to propose new legislation to protect endangered species, dubbed the Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act, as The Christian Science Monitor reported. The bill would would make it illegal for trophy hunters to bring back parts of any species proposed or listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
“Let’s not be cowardly lions when it comes to trophy killings,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D) of New Jersey said in a public statement regarding the legislation.
Environmentalists and animal rights activists have welcomed the global attention that Cecil's death has brought to problems related to illegal poaching and trophy hunting. However, some other activists have questioned whether the social media firestorm around Cecil's death may have detracted from human rights issues.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.