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Authorities seek hunter who paid €50,000 for the chance to kill one of Africa’s most famous lions

Crime WorldBy Neil Fetherston
Cecil
Cecil

Authorities in Zimbabwe are trying track down a Spaniard who allegedly paid park guides €50,000 for the chance to kill Cecil, one of Africa’s most famous lions, who was the star attraction at the Hwange national park.

The creature was found skinned and headless on the outskirts of the park.

The 13-year-old lion had worn a GPS collar since 1999 as part of a research project carried out by Oxford University, making it possible to trace his last movements when he was tricked into leaving the park and shot with a bow and arrow. The hunters then tracked the dying animal for 40 hours before they killed it with a rifle.

Bait, in the form of a freshly killed animal, was used to tempt Cecil out of the park, a technique commonly used so that hunters can “legally” kill protected lions.

“Cecil’s death is a tragedy, not only because he was a symbol of Zimbabwe but because now we have to give up for dead his six cubs, as a new male won’t allow them to live so as to encourage Cecil’s three females to mate,” said Johnny Rodrigues, head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force. “The two people who accompanied the hunter have been arrested but we haven’t yet tracked down the hunter, who is Spanish.”

Reports yesterday suggested the hunter responsible may be North American rather than Spanish.

The Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association admitted that its members were involved and that the case was being investigated. It claims it was a private safari and therefore not illegal, but the government insists that the lion lived on the reserve and came under its protection.