Walter Palmer, Dentist Who Killed Cecil the Lion, Returns to Work

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

The Minnesota dentist whose killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe sparked widespread outrage returned to work Tuesday.

Dr. Walter Palmer had stayed out of public view for more than a month since facing condemnation and threats for killing the lion, which lived in Hwange National Park and was being studied by Oxford University researchers.

He hurried into his practice Tuesday without a word. Patrol cars were stationed outside, but Bloomington Police Department deputy chief Mike Hartley said the officers were largely there to manage traffic and wouldn’t be providing security services.

Palmer has said that he and his family were threatened by people outraged about the lion's death.

Walter Palmer arrives at the River Bluff Dental clinic in Bloomington, Minnesota, September 8, 2015. Palmer shut his dental practice in July amid a firestorm of protests after he was identified publicly as the big game hunter who had killed the rare black-maned lion, Cecil, a popular tourist attraction in Zimbabwe.Eric Miller / Reuters

A handful of activists chanted “we will not falter, prosecute Walter” and heckled at least one patient entering Palmer’s office.

“I didn’t think it was going to be like this,” said patient Thomas Dressel, referring to the protesters and media attention.

Dressel said he didn’t plan on talking about Palmer’s hunting when he was in the dentist’s chair. “I don’t think all the negative attention and what’s going on would affect his ability to practice dentistry in any way,” he said.

Protesters had taped signs to the door, including "Justice for Cecil" and "How about you donate some of your money to endangered animals instead. Apparently you have plenty."

“It’s insane to me that he can walk back into work a month later … when we know that what he did was illegal,” said one protester, Rachel Augusta.

The practice, River Bluff Dental in Bloomington, reopened in late August without Palmer, but he told The Associated Press and the Star Tribune newspaper on Sunday that his patients want him back.

Related: Cecil the Lion's Killer Should Be Extradited: Zimbabwe Minister

"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 told the AP and the newspaper in a joint interview.