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Two Out on Bail for Cecil the Lion’s Death, American Dentist Still at Large

© AP Photo / Ann HeisenfeltMark Balma works on a mural of Cecil the lion outside Dr. Walter James Palmer's dental office in Bloomington, Minnesota.
Mark Balma works on a mural of Cecil the lion outside Dr. Walter James Palmer's dental office in Bloomington, Minnesota. - Sputnik International
The death of Cecil, Zimbabwe’s famed lion, was the shot heard round the world. Now the American dentist responsible for the King of Beasts’ death is in hiding, leaving his two co-conspirators to take the fall in a Zimbabwean court.

Earlier this week, Walter J. Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, paid $50,000 to travel to Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Using a dead animal as bait, Palmer and group of hunters lured a lion out of its nature preserve and proceeded to shoot the 13-year-old animal with a bow and arrow, tracking it for the next 40 hours as the lion slowly died.

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The hunters insist that they were fully licensed, and claim they didn’t know the lion they killed was the Cecil. But for many, the notion of hunting any threatened animal for sport, famous or not, is unacceptable. Given that Palmer has a history of shooting rare and beautiful animals just so he can post shirtless photos of himself on Twitter, the internet reaction to Cecil’s death has been swift.

The Yelp page for Palmer’s River Bluff Dental currently has a rating of 1 star.

"Not sure why this dentist wears full-on chaps," writes one reviewer. "It’s really gross…and the wrinkly phallic head, ugh…his face = earthworm with granny glasses."

"I don’t know who I’m more pissed at right now: the piece of sh*t dentist from Minnesota, or Yelp for continuing to delete my post," reads another.

For the time being, the business’ website and Facebook account have been deactivated. And it’s not just the good doctor’s Internet presence that’s gone dark. Palmer has shut down his practice and is apparently on the lam, avoiding Zimbabwean law enforcement.

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Theo Bronchorst, a professional hunter, and Honest Trymore Ndlovu, a land-owner, were both taken into custody on poaching charges. Both men were released on $1,000 bail.

According a police official in Zimbabwe, authorities are still searching for the American in connection with the killing.

In a statement from Palmer obtained by CNN, the dentist expressed his regret.

"To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted," the statement reads.

"Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion."

US authorities have said they will assist Zimbabwe in its investigation.

Meanwhile, police have been posted outside of Palmer’s now defunct business in Bloomington, Minnesota. This has less to do with detaining Palmer and more to do with ensuring the angry mob outside River Bluff Dental doesn’t turn violent.

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"We obviously have put a little more emphasis [on the area]," Deputy Police Chief Mike Hartley told the Star Tribune. "We have stepped up our patrols around the location."

One protester, local artist Mark Balma, has begun painting a large mural in the business’ parking lot. It depicts a 6-by-6-foot illustration of Cecil, complete with his trademark black mane.

With his dental practice shuttered, Palmer has alerted clients that he hopes to "resume normal operations as soon as possible." Hard to say if those individuals will come flocking back to who is currently one of the most hated men in America.

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