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Zimbabwe, Africa - One of Africa’s most famous lions, Cecil, was killed on July 1 by a American tourist who apparently paid a safari owner $55,000 to come to Zimbabwe for the opportunity to kill a lion.

Authorities in Zimbabwe are searching for the American tourist, Walter Palmer, a Minnesota dentist. Palmer is reported to have lured the 13-year-old out of the protected national park within which he lived, using food, and then shoot the lion with a bow and arrow, according to an exclusive report by The Telegraph.

According to a report in The Guardian:

The 13-year-old lion was wearing a GPS collar as part of a research project that Oxford University has been running since 1999, making it possible to trace its last movements when it was tricked into leaving the park and shot with a bow and arrow. The hunters then tracked the dying animal for 40 hours before they killed it with a rifle.

Bait, in the form of a freshly killed animal, was used to tempt Cecil out of the park, a technique commonly used so that hunters can “legally” kill protected lions...

The Oxford University study was looking into the impact of sports hunting on lions living in the safari area surrounding the national park. The research found that 34 of 62 tagged lions died during the study period. 24 were shot by sport hunters. Sport hunters in the safari areas surrounding the park killed 72% of tagged adult males from the study area.

The hunter gruesomely decapitated the beloved Cecil, stripping him of his skin as a trophy of the kill. The head and hide have been recovered and are being processed as evidence, while authorities hunt Cecil's killer.

The chairman for the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, labeled the killing of Cecil a "tragedy."

“Cecil’s death is a tragedy, not only because he was a symbol of Zimbabwe but because now we have to give up for dead his six cubs, as a new male won’t allow them to live so as to encourage Cecil’s three females to mate,” said Johnny Rodrigues, head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force. “The two people who accompanied the hunter have been arrested but we haven’t yet tracked down the hunter, who is Spanish.”

"It’s a tragedy that we are taking something that belongs to future generations and shooting these animals just because somebody is on an ego trip and they can afford it," Rodrigues said.

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Cecil had been part of a research project with Oxford University and had been featured in numerous YouTube videos of visitors to his home in Hwange National Park.

The lion was seen as an iconic symbol of the people of Zimbabwe and his killing is a tragic loss. Zimbabwean authorities are currently investigating if the hunt was illegal according to a statement on their Facebook page.

"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.”

Rodrigues is certain that the events that transpired were more illegal than not.

"How do you bait an animal out of its habitat to kill it and consider it legal?" he said. "All of the shooting of innocent animals should be stopped."

The land owner and safari owner have been arrested, but Rodrigues said they won't face any serious charges, due to being a rich foreigner.

"They should be charged with poaching," he said. "If you're a local and you kill an animal without a license you get between two and five years in prison."

Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, free thinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay's work has been published on BenSwann's Truth in Media, Chris Hedges' truth-out, AlterNet and many other sites. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis, on Facebook at Sir Metropolis and now on tsu.