Cecil the lion
CNN

Zimbabwean authorities are seeking an American dentist as part of an investigation into the killing of Cecil the lion, a well-known and favorite attraction in Hwange National Park, CNN reports.

Two Zimbabwean men were expected in court Wednesday regarding the slaughter of the famed animal. According to CNN, two locals—Theo Bronchorst, a professional hunter, and Honest Trymore Ndlovu, a landowner—were arrested and are facing poaching charges.

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According to the report, Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, whose business website has apparently vanished since he allegedly killed the lion, said that he thought everything was legal when he paid more than $50,000 to go on the hunt earlier this month. He also said that he has not been contacted by any officials in Zimbabwe or the U.S. but he would cooperate with any investigation.

Cecil, a 13-year-old male with a distinctive black mane, reportedly suffered a slow and painful death after being lured out of the park, where it is illegal to hunt. According to the Zimbabwe Conservation Task, Cecil was “baited” out of the park, with hunters tying a dead animal to the back of the vehicle they were driving.

Palmer then shot the lion with a bow and arrow, but the arrow wasn’t long enough to kill the animal, so hunters stalked Cecil for some 40 hours until they took him down with a gun. They then skinned and beheaded the big cat. According to the report, hunters attempted but were unable to destroy Cecil’s GPS collar placed on him as part of an Oxford University research study. The GPS collar is how Cecil’s remains were discovered. 

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“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,” Palmer said in a statement issued Tuesday. “I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.

“I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion,” he added.

However, those comments have not saved him from social media, which instantly pounced in condemning the dentist’s role in Cecil’s death.

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According to CNN, online users began targeting the Yelp page for Palmer’s dental practice in Bloomington, Minn., with people posting reviews slamming him for his participation in the hunt.

“You despicable, disgusting, evil, cruel, outdated, sad, discompassionate and hideous person. How DARE you deprive the world of a creature so majestic, important and vital?! I hope guilt plagues you and you never ever again know peace,” user zoe b said in a review.

“I was surprised when Dr Palmer told me my surgery would take approximately 40 hrs, and even more so when his joy increased with each gleefully delivered detail of the pain I would endure before he would ultimately decapitate me, skin me, attempt to destroy my radio collar, and then when confronted by my family and friends about his behavior, would say only he thought it was legal. Keep up the good work, doc,” another user, Gretchen F., quipped, summing up the details of Cecil’s death.

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Cecil’s killing could affect the Zimbabwean national park in a major way, officials noted, with some 30 lion cubs at risk.

“The saddest part of all is that, now that Cecil is dead, the next lion in the hierarchy, Jericho, will most likely kill all Cecil’s cubs so that he can insert his own bloodline into the females,” the Zimbabwe Conservation Force said. “This is standard procedure for lions.”

Read more at CNN here and here.