With one shot of his bow, Walter Palmer went from being a Minneapolis dentist to the world’s most reviled big game hunter.
The public outcry following his hunt of Zimbabwe’s famous tourist attraction, Cecil the Lion, has not only led to the closure of his dental office but could be a galvanizing force in altering the trophy hunting industry in the United States that’s fueling wildlife loss in Africa, according to conservationists.
Killing rare animals is nothing new for the dentist, who has crossbow records for killing a menagerie’s worth of wildlife, including rhino, warthogs, buffalo, and more. But none of his kills brought a spotlight on the contentious issue of trophy hunting until he and his hired Zimbabwean hunters lured the black-maned Cecil out from the protection of national park boundaries with bait.
“Americans don’t like to accept the role we play in wildlife trade,” Allgood said. “We like to look at China fueling demand and Africa not doing enough to protect these animals, but when it comes to lions, we have a big part in it.”
Americans traveling to Africa make up more than 60 percent of the foreign-participated lion trophy hunts carried out each year, according to John Jackson, president of the lobbying group Conservation Force. About 15,000 hunters make the trek annually, and a majority of them want to bring back a trophy, Jackson said. The group argues that lion hunts are integral to the species’ conservation, and the big game industry—worth $675 million in South Africa alone—brings in money for habitat expansion and species conservation efforts.