A US dentist who killed a lion in Zimbabwe has apologised to his patients in Minnesota for the disruption caused by the anger directed at him.
Walter Palmer’s dental practice in Minneapolis has been closed since he was named as the tourist who shot Cecil, Zimbabwe’s most famous lion.
Two Zimbabwean men have been charged over the death and local police say Mr Palmer may also face poaching charges.
He says he thought the hunt was legal and was unaware Cecil was protected.
In a letter sent to his “valued” patients on Tuesday, Mr Palmer said he had been in the news “for reasons that have nothing to do with my profession or the care I provide for you”.
He described himself as a “life-long hunter” but said he rarely discussed his passion with patients “because it can be a divisive and emotionally charged topic”.
Echoing an earlier statement, he insisted that he thought the hunt was legal and said he would assist authorities in Zimbabwe or the US in their inquiries.
Cecil, who was a major tourist attraction at Zimbabwe’s largest game reserve in Hwange National Park, is believed to have died on 1 July, but the carcass was not discovered until a few days later.
Mr Palmer is said to have shot and injured the animal with a bow and arrow. The group did not find the wounded lion until 40 hours later, when he was shot dead with a gun.
The lion was later skinned and beheaded, according to the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF), a local charity.
The animal had a GPS collar fitted for a research project by UK-based Oxford University that allowed authorities to track its movements. The hunters had tried to destroy it but failed, according to the ZCTF.
Mr Palmer’s dental practice has closed its website and social media accounts since his identity was revealed after thousands of people flooded them with angry comments.
A protest is due to be held outside the building later on Wednesday.
At the scene: Gary O’Donoghue, BBC News, Minneapolis
A man walks to the door of Walter Palmer’s surgery and affixes a poster. It reads: “rot in hell”.
A woman remonstrates with him. “That’s completely inappropriate,” she says, “he’s still a human being”. The man, unperturbed, refuses to take down the notice and the argument continues.
There are about 50 people hanging around outside Mr Palmer’s surgery – which is closed – today’s fillings going unfilled.
One protester brandishes a banner saying “let the hunter be the hunted” and a woman opines that he should hang for what he’s done.
The police look on, no doubt bemused at the news crews and satellite trucks that occupy this suburban street in Minneapolis.
Earlier on Wednesday, professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst pleaded not guilty to a charge of “failing to prevent an unlawful hunt” at a court in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare.
He was granted bail of $1,000 (£640) and ordered to appear in court again on 5 August. His co-accused – farm owner Honest Ndlovu – will appear at a later date.
The American tourist is believed to have paid about $50,000 (£32,000) to go on the hunt in Zimbabwe.
He is well known in the American hunting community. In 2006, he was found guilty of killing a black bear outside an authorised zone in the state of Wisconsin and lying to authorities about it. He was fined $3,000 (£1,900).
Mr Palmer has visited Zimbabwe for hunting trips in the past and one image posted online in 2010 shows him posing with a leopard he killed.
Lions in Africa
Max estimated lion population
Max lion population in southern Africa
665 Approx number of ‘trophy’ lions killed for export from Africa per year
49 Lion ‘trophies’ exported from Zimbabwe in 2013
0.29% Contribution to GDP of Zimbabwe from trophy hunting
17% Of Zimbabwe’s land given to trophy hunting