Authorities are chasing a Spaniard who allegedly paid a park ranger 50,000 Euros to viciously kill and skin a lion at Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.
Cecil, one of Africa’s most famous lions, was murdered in an especially brutal manner, The Guardian reports. The 13-year-old had a GPS collar for an Oxford University research project, allowing authorities to track its movements.
Hunters lured the lion into leaving the park, a technique used by poachers to “legally” kill protected animals. The lion was shot with a bow and arrow. Authorities then tracked the injured animal for 40 hours before hunters shot Cecil to death with a rifle, then skinned and beheaded him.
Cecil’s headless body was found outside the town of Hwange.
“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,” Johnny Rodrigues, head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, said. “The two people who accompanied the hunter have been arrested but we haven’t yet tracked down the hunter, who is Spanish.”
Spain has a long history of importing lion heads as trophies from Africa. “From 2007 to 2012 Spain was the country that imported the most lion trophies from South Africa,” said Luis Muñoz, a spokesman for the Spanish anti-lion poaching and conservation group, Chelui4lions. “During this period it imported 450 heads, compared to 100 in Germany. Europe needs to ban these lion hunting trophies altogether.”
The Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association has acknowledged the involvement of its members, but claims the lion was shot on a private safari and outside park borders. The country’s government has repeatedly rebuked this claim, noting Cecil lived within reserve borders and was protected.