The social media universe blew up Thursday with an outpouring of emotions, ranging from sympathy to outrage to outright retribution over the killing of a prized African Lion named Cecil. Meanwhile, American recreational big game hunter Dr. Walter Palmer has gone into hidingover the international furor, according to a CNN report late Thursday night.

According to reports,in early July 2015 Palmer paid $50,000 to a professional hunter in Zimbabwe to guide him to kill a lion. Cecil was lured outside Hwange National Park, then wounded with an arrow. Wounded for40 hours, he was finally killed with a rifle.

He was then skinned and beheaded, according to the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force.

Big game hunter Theo Bronkhorst and landowner Honest Ndlovu were arrested by Zimbabwe police and accused of assisting Palmer in the killing. The two were granted bail at $1,000 each will scheduled to appear in court August 5. They also were being questioned by Zimbabwe National Parks over the legality of the permit.

Meanwhile, both Zimbabwe police and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have tried contacting Palmer but have been unsuccessful. Zimbabwe police say Palmer could be arrested for poaching, but Palmer said he paid for the hunt legally and was not aware of the lion’s identity. Missing was Cecil’s tracking monitor from Oxford University, as part of a larger study on lion conservation.

Palmer said in astatement, “(I) relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.” He said he “deeply regret(s) that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion.”

The lion’s killing was uncovered by The Daily Telegraph (U.K.) and reported on July 28 after a copy of the hunting permit was requested by journalists.

The result has been a tidal wave of commentary across social media networks, most of them condemning Palmer for his role in the torture and inhumane treatment of one of Africa’s most famous lions and a major attraction at Hwange National Park.

By early Wednesday CNN reported that more than 210,000 people signed an online petition demanding that the government discontinue issuing hunting permits to kills endanger animals; currently as few as 32,000 African lions remain in the wild, a decrease of nearly 60 percent over 30 years, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

The Facebook page called “Shame Lion Killer Dr. Walter Palmer and River Bluff Dental” already has garnered more than 12,900 members, and a petition site has nearly reached its goal of one million signatures demanding justice for Cecil.

It doesn’t appear that Palmer will be going back to work anytime soon. The website for the dental practice is no longer available online, and the hashtag #WalterPalmer is being used by critics to express their views and deliver threats and insults.

With online protests being planned for this weekend, this may be only the start of a renewed conversation about wildlife conservation.

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