Cecil, Zimbabwe’s Beloved Lion, Was Killed By A Minnesota Dentist

Earlier this month, animal lovers were heartbroken to learn that Cecil, a famous and beloved lion living in a protected area in Zimbabwe, had been killed under potentially unlawful circumstances. The gorgeous 13-year-old beast was believed to have been lured from his protected land and killed by big game hunters who get their rocks off by murdering some of Mother Nature’s most stupendous creatures, turning them into trophies. This week, new facts about Cecil’s death emerged, including the hunter’s identity: a Minnesota dentist named Walter Palmer.

According to the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF), Palmer used bait to lure Cecil away from his protected region, shot him (but did not yet kill him) with a bow and arrow, tracked the injured animal for two days before finishing the job with a rifle, and then skinned him and cut off his head as a trophy. (There are photos of Palmer posing next to Cecil’s lifeless, bloody body, but I don’t want to post them, so click here if you want to be sick.) Palmer was apparently assisted by a professional hunter by the name of Theo Bronkhorst, but Bronkhorst was also the one who reported Palmer to the authorities, and he, along with the owner of the protected land that Cecil called home, are due in court on August 6.

But what about Palmer? He’s accused of paying $50,000 to track and kill the beloved lion, and authorities are, well, on the hunt to find him. But while Palmer does not deny that he killed Cecil, he does dispute any wrongdoing. In a statement released today, Palmer claimed:

“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.”

This is certainly not the first time Palmer, 55, has enjoyed killing animals for shits and giggles, nor is it the first time he’s done so illegally. The practicing dentist, who I certainly hope loses each and every animal-loving patient, was convicted of poaching a bear in Wisconsin a few years ago. Palmer says that he will cooperate with authorities and ended his statement with this confounding non-apology: “I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion.”

Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to bring beautiful, proud Cecil back.

[Slate]

[Star Tribune]

[Photo: African Bush Camps]