One of Cecil the lion's researchers speaks out about how the beloved animal was lured off of protected land by hunters and killed

By Kelli Bender
March 07, 2018 04:24 PM
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Credit: Sean Herbert/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Trophy hunting often causes an uproar among animal lovers, but Cecil the Lion’s death was something different.

The 12-year-old lion was a favorite at Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, beloved by both staff and visitors. Cecil, whose son was shot and killed as well, was also collared for a research study.

So, when Minnesota-based dentist Walter Palmer paid a large sum (allegedly $50,000, according to The Washington Post) for local hunters and guides to lure a lion out of the park to be killed with a bow and arrow, people around the world were outraged.

Oxford University researcher Andrew Loveridge is exploring this response and the details around Cecil’s death in his new book Lion Hearted: The Life and Death of Cecil & the Future of Africa’s Iconic Cats.

Through research and interviews, Loveridge has put together the first detailed look at the timeline of Cecil’s final hours. The grim timeline includes how the hunters lured Cecil off protected grounds and the revelation that the beloved animal was wounded by the hunting party and then left to agonize in pain for 10 to 12 hours before the hunters finally killed him.

The subject is especially important to Loveridge since he studied Cecil for eight years before the big cat was cruelly taken away from the world. Along with the details of the lion’s death, the author recounts his own feelings when the research team he was on got no response from Cecil’s GPS collar, a realization that eventually led them to the lion’s body, reports The Washington Post.

While Palmer experienced no legal ramifications for Cecil’s murder, the death did lead to increased awareness about the questionable practices used in trophy hunting. The subject is in the news again, not just because of Loveridge’s book, but also due to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recent rolling back of restrictions on the importation of hunting trophies from places like Zimbabwe.

This story has been updated to correct two errors. The story incorrectly reported that the hunt for Cecil the lion was illegal and that the hunter paid to “illegally kill” Cecil. No laws were broken during the legal hunt for Cecil.