The American dentist who shot Zimbabwe’s favourite lion has again apologised for his actions - this time to his patients.
Walter Palmer’s dental surgery in Minneapolis, Minnesota has been closed after it was revealed he shot Cecil the lion with a bow and arrow.
Cecil is believed to have been left wounded for 40 hours before finally being shot with a gun.
In a letter to his “valued” patients on Tuesday he apologised for the “disruption” and insisted he believed the hunt was legal.
He wrote in the letter, which was seen by local TV station KMSP: “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 US 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. That was never my intention."
It comes as the website and social media accounts attached to his practice were shut down after a barrage of angry messages.
Outraged animal lovers gave his business 5,000 one star ratings in response to the killing with one saying Mr Palmer has “singlehandedly ruined [his] own business”.
A protest by Minneapolis animal rights protesters was held outside his office in the city on Wednesday and participants left stuffed animals in a tribute to Cecil outside the practice doors.
The dentist is now believed to be in hiding.
Two Zimbabwean men have appeared in court charged with poaching in connection with the case. They could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Dr Palmer has not been charged with any offence.
The damage to the local economy could be significant a wildlife conservationist has warned.
The most controversial animal killings
The most controversial animal killings
1/6 Cincinnati Zoo worker shots and kills Harambe, the 17-year-old gorilla
Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla was shot and killed by a Cincinnati Zoo worker after a three-year-old boy climbed into a gorilla enclosure and was grabbed and dragged by Harambe. The incident was recorded on video and received broad international coverage and commentary, including controversy over the choice to kill Harambe. A number of primatologists and conservationists wrote later that the zoo had no other choice under the circumstances, and that it highlighted the danger of zoo animals in close proximity to humans and the need for better standards of care
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
2/6 Walt Palmer (left), from Minnesota, who killed Cecil, the Zimbabwean lion (pictured here with another lion shot in Africa)
Walter James Palmer has been named by Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force as the shooter of Cecil, a 13-year-old prized lion. He is now wanted by Zimbabwe officials on poaching charges. The lion was protected and the subject of a decade long study by the Wildlife Unit of Oxford University in the UK. He was outfitted with a GPS collar and was killed in Hwange National Park. The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority and the Safari Operators Association said that two men were charged with poaching in connection to Mr Palmer
3/6 Kendall Jones hunting images
Kendall Jones, a 19-year-old Texas Tech university student, has provoked worldwide fury after posting pictures of herself smiling next to animals she hunted, including a lion, rhinoceros, antelope, leopard, elephant, zebra and hippopotamus
4/6 Rebecca Francis hunting images
Rebecca Francis, a huntress who has killed dozens of wild animals has been sent death wishes by furious social media users after a picture showing her lying down next to a dead giraffe was circulated. Rebecca Francis has a website and Facebook page dedicated to the animals she has killed in hunts across Africa and America. Francis, a prolific hunter who has also co-hosted the television show Eye of the Hunter, regularly posts pictures of herself posing next to dead bears, giraffes, buffaloes and zebras, among other animals. She uses a bow and arrow to kill her prey
5/6 The slaughter of Marius, an 18-month-old healthy giraffe in Copenhagen Zoo
Copenhagen Zoo made the controversial decision to euthanise a healthy giraffe named Marius, which was later dissected and fed to lions as visitors watched. The slaughter sparked a furious backlash from social media users and zoo staff have received death threats by phone and email. Soon after the incident, Copenhagen Zoo faced an international outcry once again after four healthy lions were put down
6/6 Swiss Dählhölzli zoo kills healthy brown bear cub
A Switzerland zoo faced heavy criticism from animal rights groups, after keepers put down a healthy brown bear cub to spare it from being bullied by its dominant male father. The 360 kg male bear Misha had already killed one of his 11-week old cubs in public and was bullying the second, staff at the zoo said, because he was jealous of the attention the cubs were receiving from their mother, Masha. Both adult brown bears had been donated to Bern’s Dählhölzli zoo in 2009. Campaigners condemned staff there for not separating the cubs, who are being referred to as Baby Bear Two and Baby Bear Three, and their mother from Misha after their birth in January
Jeff Flocken said: "He was an animal that was sought out by tourists, who came there, spent money and brought revenue which is so needed in so many of these African countries - to see and take pictures of the animal.
"Now after this one tremendously unnecessary death that revenue can't come in any more."Reuse content