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US dentist who killed Cecil the lion returns to work AFP Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Chicago (AFP) - The US dentist who sparked international outrage when he killed Cecil the lion during a hunting trip to Zimbabwe returned to work Tuesday after six weeks in hiding.

Walter Palmer entered his Bloomington, Minnesota, dental practice without saying a word amid a small crowd of protesters and reporters.

Casually dressed in a dark polo shirt, the 55-year-old was surrounded by reporters and people scrambling to take pictures on their cell phones as he walked into the office.

A handful of protesters held signs declaring "Stop Trophy Hunting" and "Animals Not Trophies."

Cathy Pierce, who brought her Alaskan Malamute, Shanook, along with her, said she was there "to stick up for animals that can't stick up for themselves."

"We need more people to realize our animals are going extinct," she told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "If I was a patient of his, I would be gone."

Zimbabwe has asked the United States to extradite Palmer to face charges over the July hunt.

There was a small police presence on

hand outside the dental practice at daybreak as the first employees arrived. However, there were no reports of scuffles.

In his first interview since the uproar, Palmer told the Star Tribune over the weekend that he and the others in his party had no idea the animal they were hunting was the revered feline that was a well-known attraction at the Hwange National Park.

He also maintained he thought that the hunt, during which he was armed with a powerful crossbow, was legal.

Palmer declined to say whether he would abide by any request to return to Zimbabwe over legal allegations, and an attorney present for the interview added that there had been "no official allegations that he's done anything wrong."

Cecil had been wearing a tracking collar as part of an Oxford University research project. But Palmer said he had been unable to see the device in the night and under the animal's mane, adding that it was not illegal to kill lions with collars.

In other comments, Palmer said the ordeal had been particularly difficult for his wife and daughter, who had been threatened on social media.

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