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New details of Cecil the Lion's death spark fresh outrage

Cecil the lion roaming the plains in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park in November 2012.
Cecil the lion roaming the plains in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park in November 2012. Zuma Press

Correction: The caption that originally accompanied the photo with this story incorrectly characterized the hunt that killed Cecil the Lion as illegal.

New details have emerged that Cecil the Lion’s killers lured him out of a protected park in Zimbabwe with an elephant carcass and people are outraged all over again.

Excerpts from a book about the 12-year-old male lion’s last hours have catapulted him back into the news, more than 2 1/2 years after he was killed by Minnesota dentist and big-game hunter Walter Palmer, who was never prosecuted.

According to new details of the incident, published in an upcoming book, Cecil was allegedly lured out of Hwange National Park in Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe with an elephant carcass, near where Palmer was hiding in the branches of a nearby tree.

Wildlife Watch, a division of National Geographic, has published an excerpt of “Lion Hearted: The Life and Death of Cecil and the Future of Africa’s Iconic Cats,” written by Andrew Loveridge, an Oxford University biologist. Loveridge had been studying Cecil for the eight years before his death in July 2015, as part of the university’s WildCRU conservation research unit. Cecil was also well known to visitors of the Hwange National Park for his black mane.

According to one of the book’s excerpts, the scent of a dead elephant drew Cecil out of the protected park, and onto nearby Antoinette farm, which did not have proper permits to hunt lions.

Another hunting client had shot the elephant a week before Cecil’s demise, the excerpt says, and Honest Ndlovu, owner of Antoinette farm, had told employees at his camp to watch the elephant carcass and alert him if any lions came to feed.

Loveridge believes that because Cecil was used to human visitors snapping photos of him in the park, he wasn’t scared off by the scent of the hunters. He's also come to the conclusion that Palmer mortally wounded Cecil with an arrow, then waited 10 to 12 hours before finishing him off and has no doubt that Cecil suffered greatly during that window of time.

“Perhaps part of the explanation is that Palmer was hoping to submit this obviously large trophy to a hunting record book as a bow-hunted specimen,” Loveridge writes.

Zimbabwe Lion Killed.JPG
Walter Palmer arriving at his Minnesota dental office, a few months after he killed Cecil, was never prosecuted for the hunt. Jim Mone AP

The New York Times profiled Palmer in 2009, when he killed an elk with a compound bow while trying to set a bow-hunting record. Palmer had also illegally killed a 550-pound black bear while bow hunting in Wisconsin in 2006.

Loveridge also learned during his reporting for the book, that Hwange National Park's only other male lion, Jericho, spent several nights afterward calling — presumably for his dead friend.

Zimbabwean courts eventually threw out charges against Ndlovu and Theo Bronkhorst, the professional hunter who helped Palmer hunt Cecil.

Palmer claimed that he thought his guides had gotten the required permits and was never prosecuted. A year after Cecil’s death, The Daily Mail reported that Palmer was spotted pulling up to a Minneapolis cocktail bar, looking relaxed and smiling, in his new $120,000 Porsche.

Simon and Schuster is publishing “Lion Hearted: The Life and Death of Cecil and the Future of Africa’s Iconic Cats,” due out April 10.

Meanwhile, Twitter's wounds were opened all over again, after the new details emerged.