Minnesota dentist who killed beloved lion returns to work

AP Interviews Lion-Hunting Dentist

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) -- The Minnesota dentist who killed Cecil the lion returned to work Tuesday after weeks away, walking silently past a swarm of media and a handful of protesters outside his small dental practice calling for him to be sent to Zimbabwe to face trial.

A security guard met Palmer in the parking lot of the Bloomington clinic as he walked from a street where police had blocked off traffic, whisking him inside past a barrage of reporters shouting questions.

READ MORE: US dentist who killed Cecil the lion set to return to work

Palmer announced Sunday in an interview with The Associated Press - his first since the uproar broke over Cecil's killing during a hunt in Zimbabwe's vast Hwange National Park in July - that he would return to work, saying his patients and staff need him.

The small throng of protesters gathered outside the clinic didn't match the furor in the days after Palmer was named as Cecil's killer, when hundreds held vigils for the big cat with the black mane and forced River Bluff Dental to temporarily close.

Just a few protesters were on site when the dentist appeared shortly after 7 a.m. Cathy Pierce repeatedly yelled "Extradite Palmer!" as he entered the practice.

Photos from the international outcry following Cecil's death:

15 PHOTOS
Cecil, Zimbabwe Lion killed by Minnesota dentist
See Gallery
Minnesota dentist who killed beloved lion returns to work
BLOOMINGTON, MINN - SEPTEMBER 8: Dentist and trophy hunter Dr. Walter Palmer (L- in black short sleeves) walks into his clinic with private security and members of the media on September 8, 2015 in Bloomington, MN. Palmer came to his clinic for the first time in over a month after killing famed lion Cecil in Zimbabwe. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
BLOOMINGTON, MINN - SEPTEMBER 8: Dentist and trophy hunter Dr. Walter Palmer (L- in black short sleeves) walks into his clinic with private security and members of the media on September 8, 2015 in Bloomington, MN. Palmer came to his clinic for the first time in over a month after killing famed lion Cecil in Zimbabwe. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
BLOOMINGTON, MINN - SEPTEMBER 8: Protester Cathy Pierce (C) and other protesters voice their anger after Dr. Walter Palmer walks into his clinic on September 8, 2015 in Bloomington, MN. Palmer came to his clinic for the first time in over a month after killing famed lion Cecil in Zimbabwe. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 05: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) protesters hold pictures of Cecil the Lion as they stand in front of the Department of Interior building to protest against the importing of wild game killed as trophies August 5, 2015 in Washington, DC. Peta is calling on the Fish and Wildlife Service to take steps to end cruel trophy hunting by listing lions as a threatened species and banning the importation of their heads, tails, and skins into the U.S. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Cecil the lion.

(Photo via International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa)

BLOOMINGTON, MN - JULY 29: Protesters call attention to the alleged poaching of Cecil the lion, in the parking lot of Dr. Walter Palmer's River Bluff Dental Clinic on July 29, 2015 in Bloomington, Minnesota. According to reports, the 13-year-old lion was lured out of a national park in Zimbabwe and killed by Dr. Palmer, who had paid at least $50,000 for the hunt. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
BLOOMINGTON, MN - JULY 29: Protesters place signs on the doors of Dr. Walter Palmer's River Bluff Dental Clinic to call attention to the alleged poaching of Cecil the lion on July 29, 2015 in Bloomington, Minnesota. According to reports, the 13-year-old lion was lured out of a national park in Zimbabwe and killed by Dr. Palmer, who had paid at least $50,000 for the hunt. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
BLOOMINGTON, MN - JULY 29: Protesters call attention to the alleged poaching of Cecil the lion in the parking lot of Dr. Walter Palmer's River Bluff Dental Clinic on July 29, 2015 in Bloomington, Minnesota. According to reports, the 13-year-old lion was lured out of a national park in Zimbabwe and killed by Dr. Palmer, who had paid at least $50,000 for the hunt. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
BLOOMINGTON, MN - JULY 29: Protesters place stuffed animals on the sign of Dr. Walter Palmer's River Bluff Dental Clinic to call attention to the alleged poaching of Cecil the lion on July 29, 2015 in Bloomington, Minnesota. According to reports, the 13-year-old lion was lured out of a national park in Zimbabwe and killed by Dr. Palmer, who had paid at least $50,000 for the hunt. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 05: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) protesters hold pictures of Cecil the Lion as they stand in front of the Department of Interior building to protest against the importing of wild game killed as trophies August 5, 2015 in Washington, DC. Peta is calling on the Fish and Wildlife Service to take steps to end cruel trophy hunting by listing lions as a threatened species and banning the importation of their heads, tails, and skins into the U.S. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Cecil the lion from Zimbabwe that was killed by an American Dentist is projected on the Empire State Building, in the 'Projecting Change on the Empire State Building' project, made by the Oscar winning director and founder of Oceanic Preservation Society Louis Psihoyos and producer Fisher Stevens in New York on August 1, 2015. PHOTO/ KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
BLOOMINGTON, MN - JULY 29: Protesters call attention to the alleged poaching of Cecil the lion, in the parking lot of Dr. Walter Palmer's River Bluff Dental Clinic on July 29, 2015 in Bloomington, Minnesota. According to reports, the 13-year-old lion was lured out of a national park in Zimbabwe and killed by Dr. Palmer, who had paid at least $50,000 for the hunt. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
BLOOMINGTON, MN - JULY 29: Protesters call attention to the alleged poaching of Cecil the lion, in the parking lot of Dr. Walter Palmer's River Bluff Dental Clinic on July 29, 2015 in Bloomington, Minnesota. According to reports, the 13-year-old lion was lured out of a national park in Zimbabwe and killed by Dr. Palmer, who had paid at least $50,000 for the hunt. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
BLOOMINGTON, MN - JULY 29: Protesters call attention to the alleged poaching of Cecil the lion, in the parking lot of Dr. Walter Palmer's River Bluff Dental Clinic on July 29, 2015 in Bloomington, Minnesota. According to reports, the 13-year-old lion was lured out of a national park in Zimbabwe and killed by Dr. Palmer, who had paid at least $50,000 for the hunt. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
BLOOMINGTON, MN - JULY 29: Rachel Augusta leads the protest of the killing of Cecil the lion in the parking lot of hunter Dr. Walter Palmer's River Bluff Dental Clinic on July 29, 2015 in Bloomington, Minnesota. According to reports, the 13-year-old lion was lured out of a national park in Zimbabwe and killed by Dr. Palmer, who had paid at least $50,000 for the hunt. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Pierce said she drove more than an hour from her home in East Bethel to the Bloomington clinic to "fight for animals who can't fight for themselves."

She scoffed at Palmer's suggestion in his interview with the AP that protesters had unfairly targeted his employees and family, in some cases threatening violence.

"We're not picking on his staff or his family. We're picking on him," she said. "We want him to know that we're not going to forget."

Stephanie Michaelis, a woman who lives near the clinic, walked over to argue with protesters, telling them to leave Palmer alone. She said the uproar over Cecil's death was overblown and that people should be more concerned about abortions and threats to human life.

Among the patients Tuesday was Thomas Dressel, who said his wife was a regular but it was his first visit as a patient. Dressel said he trusted Palmer's account of the hunt and, as a retired doctor, wanted to support a fellow medical professional.

"I support his business. I'm sure that this has really hurt his practice," he said.

Bloomington Police Deputy Chief Mike Hartley said police would be there as long as media were gathered. He said police don't believe Palmer's safety is at risk.

A group of half a dozen protesters remained on the sidewalk more than an hour after Palmer entered, holding signs calling for his extradition to Zimbabwe to face punishment. But while Palmer's guides on the hunt have either been charged or await charges for their involvement in Cecil's killing, the Zimbabwean government's pursuit of the dentist has cooled off amid fears it could hamper a hunting industry that is lucrative and important for the country.

It's been a month since Zimbabwean officials announced that police would process paperwork to extradite Palmer for participating in the hunt, but as of Monday, a police spokeswoman in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, said there were no new developments in the case.

An attorney acting on Palmer's behalf told AP that he offered to make Palmer available to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to talk about the case several weeks ago, but he hasn't heard back.

Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Laury Parramore said Tuesday that she has no update on the case but that an investigation continues.

More from AOL.com:
Vanessa Williams to return to Miss America after 3 decades
NY governor's aide remains critical after being shot in head
End to Brady suspension a game-changer for NFL fantasy football

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.