Officials: Beloved lion lured outside sanctuary, shot and killed by American dentist

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ST. PAUL, Minn. – A dentist from Minnesota says he regrets killing a beloved lion during a trip to Zimbabwe.

Authorities say 55-year-old Walter Palmer killed “Cecil” the lion with a bow and arrow.

The killing has sparked outrage across the globe after officials in Zimbabwe say Palmer lured Cecil out of the protection of a sanctuary and onto private property, where he was shot.

However, Palmer blames his guide for the killing of the lion.

“I hired several professional guides, and they secured all proper permits,” a statement from Palmer said. “To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted. 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.”

The London Telegraph released his name on Tuesday, adding that Palmer allegedly paid $54,000 for the opportunity to kill a lion. 

Zimbabwean wildlife authorities say two other men will appear in court later this week for their alleged roles in Cecil’s death.

A chairman for the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said the hunters tied a dead animal to their car to lure Cecil out of the Hwange National Park.

From there, officials say the lion was lured onto Honest Trymore Ndlovu’s farm, where it was shot with an arrow.

It ran off, and was found wounded 40 hours later. At that point, Cecil was shot with a rifle.

The lion was then skinned and beheaded. Officials say the hunters tried to destroy the lion’s collar, fitted with a tracking device, but failed.

Now, wildlife officials are concerned about the fate of Cecil’s 24 cubs.

They believe the new ‘lion king’ will likely kill those cubs.

After learning of the news, animal lovers across the globe took out their anger on Palmer’s dentistry practice, by flooding the company’s Facebook page and Yelp page with comments.

This is not Palmer’s first time in trouble with the law over hunting.

According to the Telegraph, he pleaded guilty to making a false statement to federal wildlife officials concerning where he shot and killed a black bear during a hunt.

He was sentenced to a year probation.

By early Wednesday, more than 210,000 people signed a petition that called for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to stop issuing hunting permits to kill endangered animals.

According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, African lion populations have fallen almost 60 percent over the past 30 years and as few as 32,000 of them remain in the wild.

Hunters argue that by paying big bucks to hunt, they can help fund the preservation of endangered species.

However, conservationists dispute that approach.

“Studies have shown that with these big, lavish hunts, only 3 percent to 5 percent of the income from that hunt actually ends up for local people on the ground where the hunt happens,” said Jeff Flocken, the North American regional director for the IFAW. “There are much better ways to earn this kind of money – revenue from nature tourism, where the animal’s not killed, brings in three to 15 times what’s brought in from these trophy hunts in Africa.”

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