Walter Palmer, the American dentist accused of killing Cecil the Lion says he intends to return to work this week, as he refuses to rule out attending hunts in the future - despite sparking global controversy this summer.
The twenty minute interview is the first time Palmer has faced questions in public over his role in Cecil's death.
“This has been especially hard on my wife and my daughter,” Palmer told Associated Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, describing the vitriolic reaction of critics on social media.
“They’ve been threatened in the social media, and again … I don’t understand that level of humanity to come after people not involved at all.”
He also disputes some of the facts reported by media - and been clear that he had not known the identity of the animal before taking the fatal shot. "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."
Throughout the interview, the two reporters say Palmer stared intently throughout and refused to answer detailed questions on the specific hunt in which Cecil was killed.
When Palmer was asked about the hunt itself, he referred to his initial statement in defense of his actions, while his lawyer Joe Friedberg said, “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.”
His Bloomington dental practice has been closed throughout August while Palmer dealt with huge attention drawn by his hunting trip, affecting those who rely on him for employment. “I have a lot of staff members, and I’m a little heartbroken at the disruption in their lives," he said.
The practice is now set to re-open in full on Tuesday.
But when asked whether he would return to Zimbabwe for future hunts, Palmer told AP, "I don't know about the future." He estimated he had been there four times and said, "Zimbabwe has been a wonderful country for me to hunt in, and I have always followed the laws."
While Palmer remains under investigation by the US and Zimbabwean government over his actions, Friedberg told AP he is not expecting criminal charges. “There are no official allegations that he’s done anything wrong,” Palmer's lawyer said.