Last updated: 02:08 PM ET, Mon July 27 2015

Tour Operator Arrested After Illegal Lion Kill in Zimbabwe

Impacting Travel | Donald Wood | July 27, 2015

Tour Operator Arrested After Illegal Lion Kill in Zimbabwe

Photo by David Cogswell

Illegal hunting is a major problem in Africa, and the circumstances surrounding the recent slaying of a lion tagged with a GPS collar by researchers from Oxford University has the rest of the world taking notice.

Don Melvin and Khushbu Shah of reported that a 13-year-old lion named Cecil was part of a research project and lived in a national park in Zimbabwe, protected from surrounding areas where hunting is legal.

Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force head Johnny Rodrigues told CNN that Cecil was allegedly lured out of the protected area in the park by a hunter or hunters who paid about $55,000 to kill the massive lion.

Once Cecil was off the protected land, he was shot with a crossbow and tracked for more than 40 hours before finally being dispatched with a firearm. The lion’s head was cut off and taken as a trophy, and the skin was also removed. Authorities later found the severed head and skin and collected them as evidence.

The incident reportedly took place on July 6.

The report claims that a Spanish man was the main suspect in the case, but as many as three other hunters could have been involved. The tour operator for the safari has been arrested and suspended indefinitely by the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association (ZPHGA).

Following the incident, the ZPHGA released a statement that said, “The professional hunter and company he works for have been co-operative in the investigation. ZPHGA reiterates it will not tolerate any illegal hunting or any unethical practices by any of its members and their staff.”

Stephen Burgen of The Guardian said the fear now is that Cecil’s cubs will be left for dead due to the way lions handle their young. The report also claims the adult lion was the biggest attraction in the park.

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