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Beloved Cecil the Lion Killed by American Hunter

posted: 07/28/15
by: Danny Clemens
Cecil the lion
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This handout picture taken on October 21, 2012 and released on July 28, 2015 by the Zimbabwe National Parks agency shows a much-loved Zimbabwean lion called "Cecil" which was allegedly killed by an American tourist on a hunt using a bow and arrow, the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force charity accused on July 15, 2015, adding that the animal had taken 40 hours to die. The lion, which was a popular attraction among visitors to the Hwange National Park, was tempted outside the park using bait and then shot earlier this month.
AFP PHOTO / ZIMBABWE NATIONAL PARKS

One of Zimbabwe's most beloved lions was gruesomely killed by an American hunter earlier this month, and local authorities are pursuing criminal charges for all involved parties.

Cecil the lion garnered international attention as part of an Oxford research project. The charismatic lion resided in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park, where national law protected the animal from poaching. Authorities allege that a hunting party maliciously lured Cecil out of the confines of the park:

"They went hunting at night with a spotlight and they spotted Cecil," Johnny Rodrigues, of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, said in a statement. "They tied a dead animal to their vehicle to lure Cecil out of the park and they scented an area about half a kilometer from the park."

Now on private property, a hunter shot the gentle giant with an arrow, seriously wounding the creature. For the next two days, the hunter then stalked the weakened lion through the Zimbabwean grasslands, ultimately ending its life with a bullet, Rodrigues says.

Reports indicate that Cecil's carcass was skinned and beheaded. The lion's remains have not yet been located.

Cecil is survived by six lionesses and approximately two dozen cubs. Another dominant male will likely kill Cecil's cubs before mating with the six lionesses.

Conservation group Lion Aid reports that nearly 75% of male lions on the park's borders have been shot by hunters over the years.

AUTHORITIES RESPOND

Zimbabwean authorities have announced that the two locals who facilitated the hunt will face poaching charges, which carry a maximum of 15 years in prison. A police spokeswoman also said that government authorities were searching for the hunter, who has been identified as Minnesota dentist Walter James Palmer.

Palmer has since released a statement to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, blaming the animal's death on the local safari guides:

"I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt," he said. "I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion."

The Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association, which oversaw the hunt, refused to comment on Cecil's death. In a statement, the organization announced that it is "conducting an investigation on the legalities of the hunt that took place".

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