The Minnesota dentist who killed Zimbabwe’s famous Cecil the lion in July revealed in his first interview that he intends to return to work on Tuesday. Walter Palmer spoke to the Associated Press and Minneapolis Star Tribune on Sunday night for about 20 minutes, though he did not reveal much more than he said in his previous statement on the matter. He reiterated that he did not know Cecil was beloved in the nation, or that he had been fitted with a GPS collar as part of an Oxford University study. “If I had known this lion had a name and was important to the country or a study obviously I wouldn’t have taken it,” Palmer said. “Nobody in our hunting party knew before or after the name of this lion.”
Joe Friedberg, a Minneapolis attorney, advised Palmer during the interview, but he said he was not acting as his attorney because he’s yet to be charged with a crime. “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,” Friedberg said. Palmer said he could not see Cecil’s tracking collar under his mane, and added that it’s not illegal to shoot collared animals anyway. He confirmed that he initially wounded Cecil with a bow and arrow, but denied that it took him 40 hours to track the lion and fire a second fatal arrow.
Palmer also disputed media reports that he’s been in “hiding” for the past few weeks, but he would only say that he’s been staying with family and friends. He intends to return to River Bluff Dental in suburban Minneapolis on Tuesday, though there have been protests at the office. “I have a lot of staff members at River Bluff Dental,” he said. “I’m a little heartbroken at the disruption in their lives. And I’m a health professional. I need to get back to treating my patients. My staff and my patients support me and they want me back.”
There have also been protests outside the dentist’s home, and his vacation property in Florida was vandalized. Palmer said the last few weeks have been particularly hard for his wife and adult daughter. “They’ve been threatened. In the media, as well, and the social media,” he said. “I don’t understand that level of humanity, to come after people not involved at all.”