Office of Minnesota dentist who shot Zimbabwe lion reopens without him

Sarah Madison (L) and her son Beckett, 3, are surrounded by media as they look at stuffed animals placed at the doorway of the River Bluff Dental clinic in protest against the killing of a famous lion in Zimbabwe, in Bloomington, Minnesota July 29, 2015. REUTERS/Eric Miller

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - The dental practice of a Minnesota hunter whose killing of Zimbabwe's best-known lion, Cecil, sparked widespread criticism from animal lovers around the world reopened on Monday without him, the practice said in a statement. The River Bluff Dental practice in a Minneapolis suburb had been closed since late July and became a center of protests when Walter Palmer, 55, was identified publicly as the hunter who killed Cecil, a well-known 13-year-old rare black-maned lion. Operations resumed on Monday without Palmer present, River Bluff Dental said in a statement that declined further comment. "We are dental professionals committed to serve our patients and clients," the statement said. "Our office is private property, we ask the press to stay off the property and respect the peace of mind of of our patients and clients." Palmer, a big game bow hunter, killed Cecil in early July while on a hunt in Zimbabwe. He has released a statement in which he said he "deeply regrets" killing a "known, local favorite" lion and believed the hunt was legal. The killing of Cecil ignited a global firestorm on social media and Palmer has received threats. [ID:nL1N1093XE] Demonstrators in late July built a small memorial of stuffed animals at the door of his practice and protested, demanding that he be charged and extradited to Zimbabwe. Vandals spray-painted "lion killer" at his Florida vacation home. Zimbabwe has requested Palmer's extradition as a "foreign poacher." [ID:nL5N10B1ZH] A professional hunter in Zimbabwe has been charged with breaching hunting rules in connection with the hunt. He has denied any wrongdoing. [ID:nL5N10G42N] (Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Sandra Maler)