Internet mauls dentist accused of illegal kill of popular lion

Technically Incorrect: Walter Palmer, a dentist in Minnesota, has his Yelp entry attacked by those not fond of his allegedly illegal killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

A sample of the Yelp imagery on Palmer's entry. screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When the Internet decides to hunt you down, it doesn't stick to rules.

It doesn't try to lure you with bait, or attract you with the sweet smell of praise.

It knows where to find you, it goes there and it blasts you until your very being is dragged bleeding through the virtual streets of the world.

This is a fate currently being enjoyed by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer.

You might wonder what a Minnesota dentist could have possible done to incite the Web. Does he perform roots canals without laughing gas? Does he pull teeth for pleasure? No, Palmer performs ritualized killing of wild animals, using bows, arrows and cowardice.

This, at least, is the accusation being leveled at him right between the eyes.

As CNN reports, Palmer is suspected of having killed Cecil the lion. Cecil was a treasured resident of Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park. He had a world-weary, but kind look. He was 13 years old, after all.

Palmer, for his part, is an expert arrow-shooter who enjoys the hunt. He boasts 43 kills.

However, Johnny Rodrigues, head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, told CNN that Palmer and his local guides "went hunting at night with a spotlight, and they spotted Cecil. They tied a dead animal to their vehicle to lure Cecil out of the park, and they scented an area about half a kilometer from the park."

This would be illegal.

For his part, Palmer admitted killing the lion in an interview withthe Minneapolis Star Tribune: "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."

No, he didn't "kill" the lion. He "took" it. For safe keeping, perhaps.

The Internet was not impressed.

Palmer's Yelp page is currently covered in images of his head post-taxidermy, his posing with the dead Cecil and various gay pornographic images.

Attempts to contact Palmer have so far been unsuccessful. His dental practice's Web site also appears to be in some disarray.

Palmer's Yelp page is also full of hideous reviews. For example, this from TK of Del Mar, California: "You don't deserve to live on this planet. You are a sick, sick man. Karma will do its work and punish you. I really deeply despise you. You will pay for this."

It seems that the Web is doing Karma's work for it.

A spokeswoman for Yelp told me: "Media-fueled reviews typically violate our content guidelines. One of these deals with relevance. For example, reviews aren't the place for rants about a business's employment practices, political ideologies, extraordinary circumstances, or other matters that don't address the core of the consumer experience."

The spokeswoman told me that Yelp is remove those reviews and images that violate its terms of service. It seems, though, that it isn't long before new ones are posted. This could take awhile.

Search Palmer's name on Twitter and you get little but abuse, as well as accusations that go far beyond Cecil-killing. The hashtag #CecilTheLion is currently Twitter's top trending topic. It isn't filled with admiration from or for the hunting community.

And as for his Facebook page, well, there are many bared teeth there too.

The Internet is a court that doesn't deliberate too long. Palmer might want to contact GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons who, a few years ago, displayed his elephant-killing for all to scorn on the Web.

Palmer told the Star Tribune that he will answer any questions from the Zimbabwean authorities. For their part, the local police said they were seeking him. His current whereabouts are unknown.

Palmer is said to have paid $55,000 for the opportunity to hunt Cecil. Yes, just two or three root canals. He must have thought he was getting a bargain.

Some Yelpers have gone for humor. screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET