One of Africa’s most famous lions is dead after being illegally hunted by an American dentist, who paid $55,000 for the opportunity.
Walter Palmer has been named by the Telegraph as the hunter responsible for killing Cecil, a 13-year-old black-maned lion who lived in Zimbabwe National Parks and was a major tourist draw.
What is even more upsetting is the way in which Cecil was killed and that 24 of Cecil’s offspring are likely to be killed by other lions, according to preservationists, taking an even more significant toll on an already fragile ecosystem for the big cats.
It’s believed that Cecil was lured out of the park on the evening of July 1 by Palmer and than shot with a bow and arrow. But Cecil was not killed outright. Instead he spent the next 40 hours wounded and trying to run away before being finished off with a rifle by the professional hunter and then beheaded and skinned to be used as a trophy.
Both Cecil’s head and skin have been confiscated by officials to be used as evidence.
Zimbabwe National Parks have said “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.”
Theo Bronkhorst, the professional hunter with Bushman Safaris who allegedly assisted the dentist in Cecil’s pursuit, is reported to have admitted the incident to the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, saying he made a “mistake.” Both Bronkhorst and the landowner are under arrest and due to appear in court on August 6th.
Palmer has a record of killing big game throughout the world. Mashable reported that this is not the first time that Palmer has illegally hunted animals. Back in 2008, WEAU reported that Palmer was pleading guilty to facing up to five years in prison for illegally hunting a bear in Wisconsin. According to the report, Palmer and other members of the hunting group agreed to lie to authorities about where the animal was killed in order to avoid charges.
Since news broke, Palmer’s dentistry practice has been completely “locked down” and his Facebook page closed. While there appear to be no legal consequences for the dentist, the story has created a social media firestorm.
Actor Ricky Gervais tweeted, “”It’s not for food. It’s not the shooting, or tin cans would do. It must just be the thrill of killing,” he wrote. “Mental.”
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) July 28, 2015
“It’s a tragedy that we are taking something that belongs to future generations and shooting these animals just because somebody is on an ego trip and they can afford it,” Johnny Rodrigues, the chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, told Mashable. “How do you bait an animal out of its habitat to kill it and consider it legal?”
Cecil was a huge tourist draw for Hwange National park and his loss is seen as a terrible tragedy that will not only will affect tourism dollars needed to sustain the park but also the future generations of lions in the park.
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