Cecil The Lion Killed In Zimbabwe: Safari Tourist Is The Suspected Killer

Cecil the lion, killed in Zimbabwe on July 6, was one of Africa's most famous lions for his friendliness with people, his gentle nature, and his gorgeous mane.

According to CNN, the lion was part of the Oxford University research project and wore a GPS collar at all times. Apparently Cecil's killers tried to destroy the GPS device after discovering it, knowing that it would let the authorities know exactly what happened to him and that he was killed illegally.

The head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force Johnny Rodrigues said Cecil, who was approximately 13 years old, was lured out of the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe with bait, most likely another dead animal, and shot with a crossbow. Because the bow shot did not kill the lion, Rodrigues says he was tracked for more than 40 hours before being finished off with a gun. His body was then skinned and decapitated and left in the wild to be fed on by predators.

Now, it is being reported that a Spanish hunter paid nearly $55,000 to a park ranger in order to have the opportunity to kill the iconic animal with a crossbow and a gun.

According to the Daily Mail, the ranger was bribed financially into luring the animal out of the park so that the hunter would not face prosecution for hunting the animal on the park grounds.

"Cecil was attracted to an area outside the Zimbabwean reserve with... bait, and a Spanish hunter shot him with a bow and arrow, Rodrigues said. "I followed him and reached him two days later. Skinned and with his head cut off."

The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force released a statement, via Facebook, on July 23. They explained that the professional hunter who was leading the safari was a member of their team. Because he violated all of their ethics codes, he has been suspended indefinitely.

Below is an excerpt from the Task Force's statement:

"ZPHGA would like to make the following statement, regarding the ongoing investigation of the hunt outside Hwange that resulted in the death of Cecil the Lion at this time."

"Zimbabwe Parks Wildlife Management Authority, are currently still conducting an investigation on the legalities of the hunt that took place and for which they are the appropriate authority to do so."

"We therefore can not and will not comment on the legal aspect, whilst this investigation is ongoing. ZPHGA are working together with ZPWMA and Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe (SOAZ)."

"ZPHGA confirms the Professional Hunter in charge of the Safari is a member of ZPHGA. Therefore ZPHGA can make a ruling on the aspect of ethics and his membership at this time."

"ZPHGA in the follow up of the investigation concludes that in regarding the responsibility of his membership, the PH was is in violation of the ethics of ZPHGA. ZPHGA therefore with immediate effect, suspend his membership indefinitely."

"The professional hunter and company he works for have been co-operative in the investigation."

"ZPHGA re-iterates it will not tolerate any illegal hunting or any unethical practices by any of its members and their staff."

So far, two men have been arrested in the killing of Cecil, but the Spanish tourist and hunter remains at large.

"What hunter, what sort of demented person, would want to kill a magnificent adult lion, known to and photographed by all the park's visitors?" said Luis Muñoz of the Spanish lion conservation group, Chelui4lions. "We're ashamed of the fact that in Spain there are rich madmen who pay for the pleasure of killing wild animals such as lions."

According to a previous report by the Inquisitr, Chelui4lions has requested that Cites de España, the group which oversees the importation of endangered species, not to allow the animal's head to enter Spain as a trophy.

Cecil is survived by six lionesses, which he regularly mated with, and approximately 24 cubs. Several conservators are deeply worried about the safety of the cubs, who are now in danger, following their protector's death. They worry that the cubs will be killed if another lion takes over their pride.

[Photo via Twitter]