By: Jodi Westrick
A beloved and well-known lion who called protected land in Zimbabwe his home for 13 years, was killed earlier this month in actions that have now brought poaching charges against a hunting guide and land owner, The Washington Post reports. An American dentist, Walter Palmer, has released a statement saying he regrets having killed Cecil the lion during what he believed was a legal hunt, but it is yet to be determined whether charges will be filed against him as well, the BBC reports. Zimbabwe officials are looking for Palmer whose whereabouts are currently unknown, according to Slate.
"He was beautiful — one of the most beautiful animals you’d ever see,” Johnny Rodrigues of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force told The Washington Post in a phone interview. "… Nine times out of 10, doing 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."
Cecil's death has reignited conversations about controversial big game hunting, particularly because Cecil was lured off protected land with bait, tracked for two days, killed once he was weakened from his wounds, beheaded and skinned. Officials were able to track Cecil's movements during his final days due in part to the GPS tracker he was wearing as part of an Oxford study to track the impact of hunting in the area surrounding Hwange National Park.
While Cecil's death has outraged many, including Jimmy Kimmel, who got choked up while talking about the lion on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last night, the greatest impact will likely be on the pride he's left behind. According to UPI, Cecil had a coalition pride with another male lion, Jericho. Between the two prides, there were six lionesses and about a dozen cubs. Without Cecil, Jericho will be weakened and potentially unable to protect the two prides from other male lions and their cubs.