Cecil the Lion was a household name in July 2015 when he was shot and killed by a Minnesota dentist just outside of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.


Dr. Walter Palmer allegedly paid $50,000 to hunt in the park, but reports have come out that Cecil was lured out of the protected national park area by an elephant carcass. Palmer then fired an arrow at the 12-year-old big cat, injuring him, and then finished him off with another shot.

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A new book, Lion Hearted: The Life and Death of Cecil & the Future of Africa’s Iconic Cats, by Andrew Loveridge claims that Palmer’s hunting guide Theo Bronkhorst and tracker Cornelius Ncube, dragged an elephant carcass earlier that week to an area about 985 feet outside of the animal safe zone.

The investigative National Geographic series Wildlife Watch is using excerpts from this book to recreate the final hours of Cecil’s life, and have determined that the lion was lured away from his safe haven within the national park so that Palmer could get his $50,000 kill.

“The scent of a dead elephant drew the lion forward, enticing him to what long experience had taught him was another free meal,” one section of the book reads. “He had often fed on elephants. But there was something different about this carcass, something beyond this cat’s experience of things to avoid.”

Despite the presence of humans near, Cecil “settled down to feed, tearing at the rough dry meat with scissor-like teeth.” The lion had grown used to the visitors being around him and taking his photo, so the hunters did not signal an alarm. “He fed for a few minutes, oblivious to the hunter taking up the tension on his bow,” the segment continues.

To add insult to injury, Ncube recalled that he heard the wounded lion “struggling to breathe” in the hours after he was shot. Palmer only fired the fatal arrow about a half-day later. “Cecil suffered incredible cruelty for at least 10 hours, severely wounded and slowly dying,” the book said. “Clearly, although the wound was severe, the arrow had missed the vital organs or arteries that would have caused rapid blood loss and a relatively quick death. Certainly, the lion was so incapacitated that in all those hours he’d been able to move only 350 meters from the place where he was shot.”

The dentist was never charged with any crime and maintains that his hunting party did not know that the lion was the famed Cecil. Charges were also dropped against the hunting guide because the lion was shot outside of the protected zone.

Loveridge’s book is set for release on Apr. 10.

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