People are outraged by the illegal killing of Cecil the lion
An American dentist from Minnesota has been accused by Zimbabwe conservationists of being the alleged killer of Cecil, one of Africa's most famous lions and the main attraction at the Hwange National Park.
While the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force initially believed that the man who killed Cecil was a Spaniard, they announced on Tuesday that US citizen Walter Palmer is thought to have paid $50,000 for a chance to kill Cecil.
The man reportedly left the lion headless and skinned on the outskirts of the park. ZCTF's Johnny Rodrigues said in a statement after the hunt, thought to have taken place around July 6:
"They went hunting at night with a spotlight and they spotted Cecil. They tied a dead animal to their vehicle to lure Cecil out of the park and they scented an area about half a kilometre from the park."
After failing to kill Cecil with a bow and arrow, Rodrigues said that the men tracked him down 40 hours later and shot him with a gun.
A spokesman for Palmer told the Guardian that the hunter was upset to learn that the lion he shot may have been the beloved Cecil. He said:
"As far as I understand, Walter believes that he might have shot that lion that has been referred to as Cecil. What he'll tell you is that he had the proper legal permits and he had hired several professional guides, so he's not denying that he may be the person who shot this lion. He is a big-game hunter; he hunts the world over."
On Tuesday, the Facebook page for Palmer's dental clinic was flooded with angry threats and posts. An online petition wanting justice for Cecil has circulated the Internet with more than 12,000 signatures.
Palmer learned to shoot when he was 5 years old. He has reportedly slain lions, rhinos, wood bison, bears, and other species over the years. Many online photographs show Palmer with his bow and arrow standing next to slain animals.
Two of the people who accompanied Palmer on his Zimbabwe trip were identified and arrested by authorities earlier this month. They reportedly face packing charges and are due to appear in court in August. Zimbabwe National Parks made a statement regarding the alleged arrests:
"In this case, both the professional hunter and land owner had no permit or quota to justify the offtake of the lion and therefore are liable for the illegal hunt."
The hunters tried and failed to destroy a GPS collar the 13-year-old lion wore as part of an Oxford University research project. The collar made it possible to trace the lion's last movements.
According to Rodrigues, Zimbabwe has been working to crack down on illegal hunting and poaching. He said:
"This has been going on too long. Cecil is the 23rd or 24th lion that has been collared and then killed in Hwange. We have to try and stop it."
Authorities now have to deal with the effect of Cecil's death for his six cubs. Conservationists said:
"The saddest part of all is that now that Cecil is dead, the next lion in the hierarchy, Jericho, will most likely kill all Cecil's cubs so that he can insert his own bloodline into the females."
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