In his opening monologue, the ABC host discussed the recent murder of 13-year-old Cecil the Lion, calling him a "beautiful animal." Kimmel also questioned Minnesota dentist Walt Palmer's decision to illegally hunt wildlife.
For those unfamiliar with Cecil the Lion, the 47-year-old comedian explained, "He'd been wearing a GPS collar as part as an Oxford University research project. They'd been tracking him for years, and during that time Cecil became like a local favorite amongst the guides. He was always around. People loved to see him on safaris until earlier this month when a tourist on a hunting trip shot him for sport. And, of course, everyone is angry and upset. Last night I read this story—I happened upon this story—and the news report said they suspected it was a Spaniard who did it, who shot the animal. I have to admit, when I saw it, I was so relieved it wasn't an American. I really was. I was like, 'This is terrible, but thank God it wasn't one of us for once.' And then I went online this morning and it turns out it was an American. It was one of us. It was a dentist from Minnesota who paid $50,000 to shoot the lion."
"According to the news, he hired a company. He flew to Zimbabwe. Two locals took him to the national park. They tied a dead animal to the back of the jeep to lure the lion out of the park because it's illegal to shoot them in the park. They call it baiting. Once they got the lion out of the park, they put a spotlight on him and then the dentist shot Cecil with a bow and arrow. But the arrow didn't kill the lion so they tracked him and 40 hours later shot him with a gun, skinned him, took the head and left the body there. Now, unfortunately for him, the researchers at Oxford who are tracking Cecil were able to trace the signal and find the carcass and the local authorities found the hunters who say they realized too late that they shot an animal with GPS. They tried to destroy the tracking collar but failed to do that, so they know who it was," he added. "The American hunter whose name is Walt Palmer is currently in hiding."
Kimmel said Palmer "closed his dental office in Bloomington, Minn., and he e-mailed a statement to the news, saying, 'I had no idea the lion I took was a known local favorite until the end of the hunt.' Which, first of all, stop saying you took the animal! You take aspirin! You killed the lion! You didn't take it! He said, 'To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.' Which, OK, let's say we accept at face value that he thought it was legal and properly handled and didn't know the lion had a tracking collar and was a local favorite. The big question is: Why are you shooting a lion in the first place? I mean, I'm honestly curious to know why a human being would feel compelled to do that. How is that fun? Is it that difficult for you to get an erection that you need to kill things that are stronger than you? If that's the case, they have a pill for that. It works great! Just stay home and swallow it and you save yourself a lifetime of being the most hated man in America who never advertised JELL-O pudding on television."
After making a Bill Cosby reference, Kimmel said he is "not against hunting."
"If you're hunting to eat or to help keep the animal population healthy or it's part of your culture or something, that's one thing, but if you're some A-hole dentist who wants a lion's head over the fireplace in his man cave so his douchebag buddies can gather around it and drink scotch and tell him how awesome he is, that's just vomitus. This guy must have quite a collection of animal heads."
Kimmel then showed several photos of Palmer posing next to animals he killed.
"Here he is posing next to a bear he shot. In 2008, he was convicted of a felony for lying about where he killed a bear in Wisconsin. He got a year probation for that. This is another lion he killed in 2008. This is a leopard. This is a rhino. He killed like half of Noah's Arc," the comedian told the audience. "I don't get it."
"I also don't think the answer is to start a witch-hunt for the guy. Some people online are saying we should skin him and feed him to the lions, which, you know, is crazy," Kimmel said. "But it should be handled in a lawful way. And the men who took him out in the Jeep should be made accountable, too, but in the meantime, I think it's important to have some good come out of this disgusting tragedy."
Kimmel shared the link to the website for the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford. "These are the researchers who put the collar on Cecil in the first place. They track the animals and study them. If you want to do something—if you want to make this into a positive—you can, uh...Sorry!" he said while getting choked up. "OK, I'm good. Make a donation. Support them. At the very least, maybe we can show the world that not all Americans are like this jack-hole here."