Yelp users hunt alleged poacher of Zimbabwe’s Cecil the Lion

Zimbabwe Lion Killed
In this frame grab taken from a November 2012 video made available by Paula French, a well-known, protected lion known as Cecil strolls around in Hwange National Park, in Hwange, Zimbabwe. Zimbabwean police said Tuesday, July 28, 2015 they are searching for Walter James Palmer, an American who allegedly shot Cecil with a crossbow while on a big game hunt in a killing that has outraged conservationists and others. (Paula French via AP)
Photograph by Paula French — AP

Almost a month after an illegal hunt that killed and left headless Zimbabwe’s beloved lion named Cecil, wildlife officials have identified the culprit: a dentist from Minnesota named Walter Palmer.

According to the wildlife officials, Palmer paid guides around $50,000 for the hunt, which they committed at night by luring Cecil away from the protected lands he had called home for thirteen years. At the Hwange National Park, Cecil’s dominance in the lion hierarchy and characteristic black mane made him a major tourist attraction, sort of like a grasslands version of SeaWorld’s original Shamu, as the Washington Post put it. Palmer killed the lion with a crossbow and a rifle, then skinned and beheaded him.

Palmer released a statement responding to the enormous outrage the hunt has caused:

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.

But his apology is too little, too late, if you ask the legions of angry netizens who have attacked his dentistry’s Yelp page.

Until Tuesday, Palmer’s dentistry, River Bluff Dental, seems to have had few reviews. At one point late Tuesday afternoon, though, the dentistry had 25 pages of comments–totaling hundreds of posts–even as Yelp commenters noted that Yelp was deleting comments that weren’t entirely related to Palmer’s dental prowess.

Would you trust your dental health to a man who spends your money on killing endangered animals for sport?” one Yelper, who lives in Las Vegas, Nev., and probably hasn’t had his teeth cleaned in Bloomington, Minn., wrote.

Another commenter, more creatively, wrote: “I’d give Dr. Palmer 5 stars, but when I brought my lion in last week for a recreational root canal, he offered to use novocaine. Seriously? He knows I bring my lions to his practice because I enjoy torturing them, so why would he offer anesthesia?”

A Yelp spokesperson told Fortune that “reviews are required to describe a firsthand consumer experience, not what someone read in the news,” so many of the comments broke Yelp’s Content Guidelines. “Yelp reviews are required to describe a firsthand consumer experience, not what someone read in the news.”

The dentist’s office was reportedly closed on Tuesday, bearing a sign on the door directing visitors to a public relations firm.

Palmer is an avid big-game hunter, and he had previously been convicted of poaching a bear in Wisconsin. He once bragged to the New York Times that he had killed all but one of the animals recognized by Pope and Young, a bowhunting club. But, given the backlash to Palmer’s high-profile scalp, Cecil might have been his last.



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