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Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, was yesterday revealed to be the killer of beloved Zimbabwe lion Cecil, prompting calls from animal rights and conservation groups to ban the import of trophy lions into the U.S.

Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, alleged that Palmer and professional hunting guide Theo Bronkhorst had embarked on their hunting expedition late at night on July 6 and tied a dead animal to their vehicle in order to lure Cecil away from Hwange National Park. He said, “Palmer shot Cecil with a bow and arrow but this shot didn’t kill him. They tracked him down and found him 40 hours later when they shot him with a gun. The hunters then found that the dead lion was wearing a tracking collar, which they unsuccessfully tried to hide.”

If Rodrigues’ claims are true, this will not have been the first time Palmer has attempted to cover up the circumstances surrounding his hunting exploits. Despite his claims that hunting is “an activity I love and practice legally and responsibly,” he has previously been fined for lying about the location in which he shot a black bear in northern Wisconsin. He is now said to be “quite upset” by the fact that Zimbabwean police are demanding to speak to him about the killing, but sympathy is unlikely to be forthcoming from those who knew and loved Cecil – or indeed, from anyone who possesses an ounce of respect for big cats.

Bronkhorst and local landowner Honest Ndovlu, who helped to facilitate the killing of majestic Cecil, are now due to appear in court to face poaching charges. If convicted, they will spend up to fifteen years in prison.

Rest in peace, beautiful Cecil.

Cecil the Lion's Death Prompts Calls to Ban Trophy Lion Imports into the U.S.GoSanAngelo

The incident has thrown a fresh spotlight on Africa’s hunting industry, and prompted calls for the import of trophy lions into the U.S. to be banned. This practice has remained legal until now because the African lion is not listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Kathleen Garrigan, spokeswoman for the African Wildlife Foundation, said that while this action would not necessarily amount to “a blanket ban” on trophy hunting, it would be a significant deterrent to U.S, hunters who wish to bring the victims of their exploits home. “For many, it’s not worth it because they want to bring home the trophy,” she explained. “The government could take matters into their own hands, but companies (also) have a role to play. If they’re ethically opposed to transporting trophies, they can make a corporate stance against it.” Earlier this year, Emirates Airlines decided to stop carrying hunting trophies – such as elephants, rhinos, lions, and tigers – on its planes.

Born Free USA are among the organizations petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the African lion as threatened. They are asking concerned members of the public to write to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, urging them to list the African lion as threatened.

Will Travers OBE, president of the organization, said, “The number of lions in Africa may now be as few as 25,000 – down by 50 percent in the last few years. … Even where significant numbers still persist, the pressure on lions from habitat loss, persecution, and indeed, trophy hunting, may be too much to withstand. Cecil’s tragic and meaningless destruction may just be the catalyst we need to take action to end lion trophy hunting and, instead, devote all our energies to conserving a species which, perhaps more than any other, represents the wild soul of Africa.”

We can’t sit idle and allow the last remaining lions to be killed for the sake of something as trivial as a wall trophy. The time for conservation is now … otherwise, we’ll likely be too late.

Lead image source: Daily Mail UK

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