A hunter has killed Cecil the lion – a celebrity lion of sorts at the Hwange National Park, the largest game reserve in Zimbabwe. Cecil, 13, was lured off the reserve, shot with a crossbow and arrow and left injured for two days before he was killed and skinned. His head was removed by the hunter and taken as a trophy.
Writes The Washington Post: “For 13 years, the lion tread the protected grounds of the largest national park in Zimbabwe. He was a familiar sight on the road for those on safaris; the king of the jungle — or, at least, the savannah — who could reliably be seen walking down the road with his family. Like SeaWorld’s original Shamu or the National Zoo’s Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, Cecil was an animal who needed no last name — a great beast known not just for his majesty, but for his attitude.”
According to reports, an unnamed Spanish hunter bribed officials with the equivalent of just over $50,000 to hunt the lion, shoot it with an arrow and track it for days before finishing it off with a rifle. A Hwange park ranger was identified as accepting the cash and coercing Cecil to stray outside of the park’s borders so the hunter could kill the famous lion.
A second employee of the park has since been identified as assisting the hunter. Both men are now in custody.
“He was beautiful — one of the most beautiful animals you’d ever see,” commented Johnny Rodrigues of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force. “Nine times out of 10, during the safari drive, you’d come across him walking with his family. He was one of the animals it was guaranteed you were going to see. Thousands have seen him. Instead of protecting it — a good marketing tool — they go ahead and kill it.”
Other reports have said the hunter was not Spanish, but a wealthy American.
Cecil had been fitted with a tracking collar, but it appears either the hunter of the park ranger had removed the device. A hunt is now underway for the hunter, by both government officials and, reportedly, by bounty hunter-type groups that want to see justice done.
Adds the Daily Mail: “Cecil and [his mate] Jericho both had a pride, totaling six lionesses and several young cubs, situated in the park. With the death of Cecil, the future of the cubs are now thought to be at risk. The cubs could be killed if the pride is taken over by another male lion.”
“What hunter, what sort of demented person, would want to kill a magnificent adult lion, known to and photographed by all the park’s visitors?” said Luis Muñoz, of the Spanish lion conservation group Chelui4lions. “We’re ashamed of the fact that in Spain there are rich madmen who pay for the pleasure of killing wild animals such as lions.”
Extreme hunting has ramped up recently, with hunters going after big game and posting their kills on social media.
Kendall Jones: Cheerleader’s big game photo of killed exotic animals causes ire
Albino buck: 11-year-old bags a rare albino deer. Trophy kill or travesty?
What are your thoughts on the killing of Cecil the lion?
Update July 29: Cecil’s killer has now been identified as a Minnesota dentist, Dr. Walter Palmer.
SEE: Walter Palmer closes practice: Dr. who shot Cecil the Lion getting death threats