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Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Cecil, a well-known, protected lion who lived in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park, is seen in this frame grab taken from a November 2012 video made available by Paula French.

Big game hunter Walter J. Palmer, who rose to infamy for killing Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe is now feeling hunted himself, albeit mostly online.

The beloved lion was known to be friendly to humans, and helped bring tourists to Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park. Researchers at Oxford University in Britain were using him in a study.

Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota is believed to have killed Cecil on July 1. Officials say the animal was lured off the national park to a nearby farm. Palmer first shot the lion with a bow and arrow and after tracking the injured animal, killed him with a firearm.

Twitter, as usual, was the epicenter for the anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild, and posting photos of Palmer posing with other large animals he has killed for sport.

A combination photo shows Zimbabwean safari operator Honest Ndlovu (R) and fellow countryman and hunter Theo Bronkhorst waiting to appear in Hwange magistrates court, July 29, 2015.
A combination photo shows Zimbabwean safari operator Honest Ndlovu (R) and fellow countryman and hunter Theo Bronkhorst waiting to appear in Hwange magistrates court, July 29, 2015.

Critics also took to his dentistry's Yelp page to savage his actions. Yelp is a popular website used for reviewing businesses.

“I would not recommend going to someone with such clearly poor morals, to provide you with your dental care, especially if there's a chance you'll need sedation,” wrote one user in one of the milder statements. “You might wake up skinned and the only thing you'd get is an apology saying he had no idea that you were a local favorite.”

In the real world, protestors made a makeshift memorial to Cecil by placing stuffed animals outside Palmer’s dentistry practice. On Wednesday, a giant mural of Cecil was being painted in the parking lot of the practice.

One of the most viral reactions came from late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.

According to a 2011 report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Americans accounted for 64 percent of the lions hunted for sport in Africa between 1999 and 2008.

And it’s becoming a more popular pastime for people like Palmer.

"Of these trophies, the number imported into the U.S. in 2008 was larger than any other year in the decade studied and more than twice the number in 1999," the report found.

In a statement, Palmer said he believed “everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted.”

Authorities in Zimbabwe charged professional hunterTheo Bronkhorst, with helping Palmer to kill the popular lion.

Bronkhorst was freed on bail Wednesday after appearing in a courtroom in Hwange, about 700 kilometers west of the capital, Harare.

Emmanuel Fundira, who heads the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, wants to know the whereabouts of Palmer, who has left the country.

"We are not sure of where he is. We really want to ensure that he is brought to book. It is difficult to say much about him but the information we have about him so far is that he seem to have committed similar crimes elsewhere," he said.

Palmer said Tuesday he has not been contacted by Zimbabwe or U.S. authorities over the incident.

In Zimbabwe, poaching crimes are rampant, and conservationists say President Robert Mugabe’s government needs to step up efforts to combat the poachers.

Sebastian Mhofu contributed to this report from Harare.