Cecil the lion made headlines worldwide in July 2015 after he was shot by an American trophy hunter in Zimbabwe. New details, suggesting Cecil suffered at least 10 hours of "incredible cruelty" before dying, surfaced on Wednesday.
Minnesotan dentist Walter Palmer, 55, is said to have given local hunters at least $50,000 for the 13-year-old black-maned lion, beloved by the people of Zimbabwe. Cecil was killed with a bow and arrow after being lured from his home in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park, which is a protected wildlife preserve. Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (Wildcru), a group that regularly observed Cecil, had placed a tracker on the lion, which is how they located his remains.
Dr. Andrew Loveridge, one of Oxford's lion researchers, now suggests the true horror of Cecil's death.
"He most definitely did not die instantly and almost certainly suffered considerably," Loveridge wrote in a passage obtained by National Geographic. "The injured lion most likely was killed 10 to 12 hours after being wounded."
Added Loveridge, "Clearly, although the wound was severe, the arrow had missed the vital organs or arteries that would have caused rapid blood loss and a relatively quick death. Certainly, the lion was so incapacitated that in all those hours he'd been able to move only 350 meters from the place where he was shot."
Cecil's death shocked millions worldwide, becoming an international topic of discussion. In America, an image honoring Cecil the lion was illuminated on one of New York's most iconic landmarks, the Empire State Building. And late-night host Jimmy Kimmel cried over the incident, urging viewers to donate to Wildcru. "If you're hunting to eat, or to help keep the animal population healthy, or it's part of your culture or something, that's one thing. But if you're some a-hole dentist who wants a lion's head over the fireplace in his man cave so his douchebag buddies can gather around it and drink scotch and tell him how awesome he is, that's just vomitous," Kimmel said to his viewers.
Palmer closed his dental practice due to the widespread backlash over Cecil's death. After the news broke, Palmer said, "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."
Zimbabwe did not charge him in Cecil's death.
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