Dentist who shot protected lion with bow and arrow 'thought it was legal'
An avid American hunter accused of illegally killing a protected lion in Zimbabwe has said he thought everything about his trip was legal.
Dentist Walter Palmer, who has a felony record in the US related to shooting a black bear in Wisconsin, released his statement after being identified by Zimbabwean authorities as the American involved in the hunt earlier this month.
They said he is being sought on poaching charges, but Mr Palmer said he has not heard from US or Zimbabwean authorities.
He added that he was not aware of Cecil the lion's status in Zimbabwe "until the end of the hunt".
"I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favourite, 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," said Palmer, who lives in the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie.
Palmer pleaded guilty in 2008 to making false statements to the US Fish and Wildlife Service about a black bear he shot dead in western Wisconsin.
He had a permit to hunt, but shot the animal outside the authorised zone in 2006, then tried to pass it off as being killed elsewhere.
He was given one year's probation and fined $3,000 (€2,700).
Palmer was identified by the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe and police as the American facing poaching charges for the bow and arrow killing of Cecil.
Authorities in Zimbabwe say the lion was lured from a protected area with bait and shot. Palmer allegedly paid $50,000 (€45,200) for the trip.
Palmer's whereabouts are unknown. No one answered the door at his home, and a woman who came out of his surgery in nearby Bloomington said he was not taking patients.
A Facebook page for his Minnesota dental practice was taken offline after users flooded it with comments condemning his involvement in the hunt.