In a tragedy that made international headlines, Cecil the lion, a 13-year-old pride leader described as the “biggest tourist attraction” of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, was killed by American trophy hunter Walter James Palmer in July. The killer’s guides reportedly lured the lion with bait to an unprotected area outside the park, where Palmer shot him with a bow and arrow. Cecil suffered for hours before he was tracked and killed with a second shot, decapitated and skinned. At the time of his death, he was wearing a GPS collar as part of a long-running research project of Oxford University. An attempt was allegedly made to destroy the collar afterwards.
Palmer, a Minnesota dentist who has posted numerous photos of prior kills online, pleaded ignorance to the illegal nature of his act—blaming his guides. However, Palmer has been convicted twice before for instances of illegal hunting and fishing—including a felony conviction for knowingly making false statements to US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) officials in connection with the killing of a black bear in Wisconsin. As more details come to light, the public outrage continues to escalate, and Palmer appears to have gone into hiding.
Meanwhile, as we go to press, the USFWS wants to question Palmer (while Zimbabwe is calling for his extradition). Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has introduced the Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act, to extend protections of the Endangered Species Act to those species being considered for listing as threatened or endangered. Also, in a first for the United Nations, the 193 member nations of its General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution following the incident encouraging countries to take “decisive steps”
against the illegal trade in wildlife.