US dentist in lion hunt says he acted legally

"Nobody in our hunting party knew before or after the name of this lion."

In this undated photo provided by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Cecil the lion rests in Hwange National Park, in Hwange, Zimbabwe. Two Zimbabweans arrested for illegally hunting a lion appeared in court Wednesday, July 29, 2015. The head of Zimbabwe’s safari association said the killing was unethical and that it couldn’t even be classified as a hunt, since the lion killed by an American dentist was lured into the kill zone. (Andy Loveridge/Wildlife Conservation Research Unit via AP)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota dentist whose killing of Cecil the lion sparked a global backlash emerged for an interview in which he disputed some accounts of the hunt, expressed agitation at the animosity directed at those close to him and said he would be back at work within days.

Walter Palmer, who has spent more than a month out of sight after becoming the target of protests and threats, intends to return to his suburban Minneapolis dental practice Tuesday. In an interview Sunday evening conducted jointly by The Associated Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune that advisers said would be the only one granted, Palmer said again that he believes he acted legally and that he was stunned to find out his hunting party had killed one of Zimbabwe’s treasured animals.

“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.”

Cecil was a fixture in the vast Hwange National Park and had been fitted with a GPS collar as part of Oxford University lion research. Palmer said he shot the big cat with the black mane using an arrow from his compound bow outside the park’s borders but it didn’t die immediately. He disputed conservationist accounts that the wounded lion wandered for 40 hours and was finished off with a gun, saying it was tracked down the next day and killed with an arrow.

An avid sportsman, Palmer shut off several lines of inquiry about the hunt, including how much he paid for it or others he has undertaken. No videotaping or photographing of the interview was allowed. During the 25-minute interview, Palmer gazed intensely at his questioners, often fiddling with his hands and turning occasionally to an adviser, Joe Friedberg, to field questions about the fallout and his legal situation.

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