Cecil the Lion was beloved by residents of and visitors to Zimbabwe during his 13 years living at the Hwange national park. The majestic lion whose dark mane was frequently photographed by visitors was hunted down and killed by a Minnesota dentist who paid $50,000 to professional hunters.
Dr. Walter Palmer, 55, is facing international outrage after it was revealed Tuesday that he was the one who killed Cecil in early July.
Cecil was found in early July, beheaded and skinned, on the outskirts of the national park.
His death has led to a suspension of lion hunting outside the national park. An investigation into other lion deaths revealed that an American doctor also participated in what has been deemed an illegal hunt in Zimbabwe. Read about that hunter, Dr. Jan Seski, here.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Was Collared for a Research Project & ‘Never Bothered Anybody’
Cecil the Lion was a treasured member of the Hwange national park and possibly its largest lion.
“He never bothered anybody,” Johnny Rodrigues, of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, told The Telegraph about Cecil. “He was one of the most beautiful animals to look at.”
The 13-year-old lion was collared as part of an Oxford University program.
2. His 6 Cubs Will Likely Be Killed by Another Lion Because of His Death
Officials are now concerned about Cecil’s six cubs, because they will likely be killed by another lion.
“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,” the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said.
“That’s how it works… it’s in the wild; it’s nature taking its course,” the head of the task force, Johnny Rodrigues, told the BBC.
3. His Death Has Been Mourned by Thousands on Social Media
Thousands of people, including many celebrities and animal activists, have mourned the death of Cecil the Lion on social media, with #CecilTheLion trending on Twitter throughout the day Tuesday.
Also, 800,000 people have signed a petition calling for justice for Cecil.
Palmer took down his dental practice’s website and social media pages, while thousands of negative comments have been posted to Yelp about it.
The charity Lion Aid said, “Cecil was not the first male lion enticed out of the park to be shot by trophy hunters. In fact, the research programme indicates that over the years, 74% of the male lions on the border of the National Park have been shot by hunters.”
4. Two Men Have Been Criminally Charged in the Case
Professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst and the land owner where Cecil was killed, Honest Trymore Ndlovu, have been charged criminally in Zimbabwe. Police say they are also looking for Bronkhorst’s son, Zane, and Walter Palmer.
While it is not illegal to hunt lions, even when they are collared, or to lure them off the national park land, authorities say they didn’t have the requirements to hunt Cecil.
“Ongoing investigations to date, suggest that the killing of the lion was illegal since the land owner was not allocated a lion on his hunting quota for 2015,” the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said in a statement.
The charity Lion Aid explains that it is legal to bait lions in Zimbabwe, to shoot them with a bow and arrow from a blind, to kill them outside a national park in a private hunting area and to kill collared lions.
“But Cecil was shot in an area not assigned a lion quota. Supposedly the bait was set for a leopard and then Cecil came along. The professional hunter, Theo Bronkhorst told his client to shoot the lion, and then the hunt became illegal,” Lion Aid says. “The professional hunter then allegedly attempted to destroy the radiocollar to hide the evidence. Allegedly the client was “furious” when he found that the lion was radiocollared. Allegedly, when a professional hunter engages a client in an area without lion quota, the lion will be listed as hunted in an area that does have quota. This could have been standard practice, but unfortunately Cecil was a well-known lion.”
5. Walter Palmer Says He Didnt Know He Killed a ‘Local Favorite’
Palmer, of Eden Prairie, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he plans to dispute some of what is being said later Tuesday.
“Obviously, some things are being misreported,” he said.
Palmer later issued a statement about the hunt, according to KSTP-TV:
In early July, I was in Zimbabwe on a bow hunting trip for big game. I hired several professional guides and they secured all proper permits. To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted.
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. I have not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the U.S. about this situation, but will assist them in any inquiries they may have. Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion.