Cecil was one of Zimbabwe’s most famous lions, and now he lies dead, headless, and skinned. The once beautiful creature with a lush mane, tinged black, was 13 years old, and was the main tourist attraction at Hwange, the country’s premier wildlife park.
Earlier this month, Cecil was found dead on the outskirts of Hwange.
According to reports, a hunter allegedly paid $55,000 to kill and decapitate the lion.
A freshly killed animal was used as bait to lure him out of the protection of the national park. This technique is commonly used by hunters so they can “legally” kill protected lions.
According to The Guardian, the 13-year-old lion was wearing a GPS collar as part of a research project that Oxford University has been running since 1999, making it possible to trace its last movements when it was tricked into leaving the park and shot with a bow and arrow. The hunters then tracked the dying animal for 40 hours before they killed it with a rifle.
Cecil the lion in Hwange, Zimbabwe:
“Cecil’s death is a tragedy, not only because he was a symbol of Zimbabwe, but because now we have to give up for dead his six cubs, as a new male won’t allow them to live so as to encourage Cecil’s three females to mate,” Johnny Rodrigues, head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, told The Guardian. “The two people who accompanied the hunter have been arrested, but we haven’t yet tracked down the hunter, who is Spanish.”
The Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association has confirmed Cecil’s death in a statement. They have also confirmed that at least one of its members was involved in the hunt, and that they were investigating the incident. The Association claims that it was on a private safari and therefore not illegal, but the government has insisted, because the lion lived on the reserve, it still falls under its protection.
The BBC wrote that Zimbabwe, like many African countries, is battling to curb illegal hunting and poaching that threatens to make some of its wildlife extinct. Rodrigues said the use of a bow and arrow heralded a new trend aimed at avoiding arrest.
“It’s more silent; if you want to do anything illegal, that’s the way to do it.”
Zimbabwean authorities are searching for the hunter, and the police are looking for the lion’s remains among the country’s taxidermists. I wonder what goes through sport shooters’ minds when the killing is just for fun, and serves no other purpose.