Walter Palmer, a dentist and avid hunter from Bloomington, Minn., was identified as the hunter who killed Cecil, a beloved and popular attraction Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park, by The Telegraph on Tuesday. He is thought to have paid approximately $50,000 US ($64,600 Cdn) to shoot the lion with a bow and arrow. The animal was later beheaded and skinned.
Two men, a professional hunter and a farm owner, face poaching charges in Zimbabwe in connection to Cecil's death. Killing the lion was illegal, because the farm owner didn't have a hunting permit, according to a joint statement from the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority and the Safari Operators Association.
A spokesman for Palmer told The Guardian that his client is "obviously quite upset over everything."
"What he'll tell you is that he had the proper legal permits and he had hired several professional guides, so he's not denying that he may be the person who shot this lion," the spokesman said. "He is a big-game hunter; he hunts the world over."
Palmer was the subject of a 2009 New York Times story about hunting a record-setting elk. The newspaper reported at the time that Palmer had pleaded guilty to making a false statement to federal wildlife officials in relation to the killing of a black bear in Wisconsin.
Photos of Palmer posing with dead animals, including a leopard and a rhino, can be found on various hunting websites.
Users on Twitter and other social media services expressed outrage at Palmer. Glenn Greenwald, the reporter behind the Edward Snowden story, was among Palmer's harshest critics, calling for his extradition to Zimbabwe.
Comedian and animal-rights activist Ricky Gervais also weighed in on the story.
Greenwald noted that Palmer's voicemail had already filled up, presumably with angry messages, and expressed his hope that the Telegraph had found the right man.
The rage directed at Palmer was not limited to his voicemail. As of Tuesday afternoon, the website for his practice was crashed, its Yelp page plastered with outraged comments and its Twitter profile deleted.
Reporters have begun to camp out at Palmer's office, which appears to be locked.
It didn't take long for many to comment that this appears to be the latest example of the swiftness with which shame is now meted out on social networks.
Cecil, recognizable by his black mane, was being studied by an Oxford University research program, the conservation group said.
Tourists regularly spotted his characteristic mane in the park over the past 13 years, said Lion Aid, also a conservation group.