The man accused of killing Cecil the lion wanted to hunt an elephant after the slaying but "couldn't find one big enough", his guide claims.
Theo Bronkhurst told The Daily Telegraph he never meant to hunt in the land where Cecil was shot and was "devastated" to learn Walter Palmer had killed a protected animal.
He said: "We would never shoot a collared animal. We were both upset. I should have taken the collar to the parks authority but I panicked.
"So we did what had to be done and took the head and skin as the client had paid for the trophy.
"The client asked if we would find him an elephant larger than 63 pounds (the weight of one tusk) but I told him we would not be able to find one so big, so he left the next day."
Mr Bronkhurst claims he "never knew about Cecil, this famous lion" and that four other collared lions had been shot in the same area this year.
American philanthropists have pledged to match new donations up to $100,000 to the research team who had been tracking Cecil since 2008.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the practice of a suburban Minneapolis dentist who killed a protected lion in Zimbabwe.
A host of celebrities have taken to social media to speak out on the killing of well-known lion Cecil in Zimbabwe by a US dentist.