Walter Palmer, the dentist from Minnesota who allegedly bribed park rangers in Zimbabwe to let him hunt and kill a beloved and protected lion, has released a public statement in which he denies any intentional wrongdoing but also expresses regret for his actions.

Palmer has become an object of massive scorn and derision across the internet and even on late-night television for his actions, but until Tuesday night had not attempted to explain himself. He issued the following statement:

In early July, I was in Zimbabwe on a bow hunting trip for big game. I hired several professional guides and they secured all proper permits. To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted.
I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, 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.
I have not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the U.S. about this situation, but will assist them in any inquiries they may have.
Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion.

Authorities are continuing their investigation, to see if Palmer did in fact know that what he was doing was illegal.

What appears to have occurred is that, around July 6, Palmer and his hired guides lured the lion, a 13-year-old male named Cecil, out of his protected area at night, using a dead animal carcass as bait. Then, when Cecil was in an area where hunting is legal, the guides shone a spotlight on him. That is when Palmer shot him with an arrow. They then followed him as he was wounded for 40 hours before finally killing him with a rifle.

They then skinned and decapitated him. Apparently they kept Cecil's coat and head as trophies, though neither item's whereabouts are currently known.

What they had not realized is that Cecil was wearing a GPS tracker, as part of a study being conducted by scientists at Oxford University in England. That is how his body was eventually discovered.

Cecil was a very popular tourist attraction at the national Hwange Park in Zimbabwe. He even felt somewhat comfortable around humans, leading many to take photos of him and endearing him to the park's rangers and officials.

“He never bothered anybody,” said Johnny Rodrigues, of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force. “He was one of the most beautiful animals to look at.”

He also led a large pride. Unfortunately, with his death, his many cubs will likely not survive. According to Andrew Loveridge, a researcher on the Oxford project, “The saddest part of all is that now that Cecil is dead, the next lion in the hierarchy, Jericho, will most likely kill all Cecil’s cubs so that he can insert his own bloodline into the females.”

Palmer's two guides have been arrested in Zimbabwe and are being charged with poaching. Officials there have said they would seek Palmer's arrest as well, though he has since returned to the United States.

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