NEW YORK – A phalanx of camera crews and assorted global media, along with a few protesters, gathered outside a small dental surgery in Minnesota on Tuesday, bent on capturing a glimpse of Walter Palmer returning to work.
The balding doctor with a skeletal face had been in hiding for since mid-July following an outcry across Europe and the US over the killing of Cecil, a famed 13-year-old lion destroyed for sport on a trip to Zimbabwe. Palmer arrived at his Bloomington clinic amid tight security and a light police presence.
Animal rights protesters welcomed Palmer back with calls for his extradition. Remarkably, his first patient, a white male in his 40s, arrived at the surgery in a pick-up truck with hunting camouflage upholstery.
Palmer, 55, said nothing as he entered; notes stuck to his door decried his bloodlust.
One read: "Lance Armstrong had his 'trophies' taken away. You should too."
Another read: "Justice for Cecil #extradition."
Palmer gave his first interview on Sunday, telling The Associated Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the hunt was lawful, one of a series of scripted answers penned by his legal team.
"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."
Protesters were not placated. Speaking to the MailOnline, Cathy Pierce said: “I'm here to stick up for the animals who can't stick up for themselves. Cecil was killed for nothing more than his skin and his head. His carcass was just left there to rot. It's disgusting. We are not here to pick on his patients or his staff - we're here to pick on him.”
Reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, one neighbour stuck up for the dentist telling protesters to leave Palmer alone. “They want the guy dead; they want his business dead,” said Stephanie Michaelis. “They want him extradited and hung. I’ve seen the signs; I’ve seen the rhetoric. I’m tired of it… What do we have to do with a lion in Africa?”