01:50 - Source: CNN
Inside the world of trophy hunting

Story highlights

Cecil 's killing has devastated researchers who track lions in Zimbabwe

Although Cecil's death sparked global fury, many Zimbabweans see lions as a threat

Many say world should focus less on lions and more on plight of Zimbabwe's people

(CNN) —  

Brent Stapelkamp is looking for Jericho. He raises a blue VHF receiver and twirls it above his head. All we hear is static.

“I am not getting anything,” he says.

We are standing together on a railway line on the edge of Hwange National Park in western Zimbabwe. On one side of the tracks, the animals are protected. On the other, they can be shot. Jericho has moved to the other side.

“When we look at our satellite images or listen to the signals and see that the lions have moved across, there is definitely a knot in our stomach,” says Stapelkamp.

For nine years Stapelkamp, a field researcher with an Oxford University-funded project, has been tracking the lions of Hwange. He knows more than 200 by sight and by name.

But one lion was always his favorite: a black-maned male called Cecil who, in death, has perhaps become the world’s most famous lion.

In early July, the 13-year-old lion was lured out of the park with food, shot with a crossbow, tracked for 40 more hours, then finished off with a gun, authorities say.

Cecil was skinned, his head reportedly cut off as a trophy. It was a tragic end for the much-loved lion, if not an altogether surprising one for those who knew him best.

“A big lion like Cecil, if you ask us, we probably knew that is how he was going to die,” Stapelkamp says.

After years of working in near anonymity, Stapelkamp has been at the center of a story that has touched a nerve around the world. The killing of Cecil, a protected animal, sparked international outrage that quickly reached the doorstep of hunter Walter Palmer, who has gone into hiding.

Palmer, an American dentist, allegedly paid around $50,000 to kill Cecil. Park officials claim the hunt was illegal, but Palmer says he did nothing wrong.

Stapelkamp isn’t so sure.

“I am quite sure that he knew what he was doing,” he tells CNN. “He came for the biggest lion he could find and that had been organized for him. Cecil was delivered to him like a pizza.”

Journalists have descended into this corner of Zimbabwe, searching for the cubs that Cecil left behind.

Experts feared the cubs would be killed as part of a power struggle over the pride but Jericho, who ran the pride with Cecil, appears to have taken them in.

Last week several of the cubs were reportedly spotted, alive and well, with the lionesses of the pride by a safari tour in the park.

No love lost for lions here

While Cecil’s killing has infuriated many around the world, that feeling is not shared by everyone in Zimbabwe.

We find a woman named Margaret Sibanda washing clothes on the side of a highway. Sibanda means lion in Sindebele, but there is no love lost here for Cecil or any other lion.

01:18 - Source: CNN
Lion killer breaks his silence
lion killer speaks boris sanchez dnt nd_00002601.jpg
lion killer speaks boris sanchez dnt nd_00002601.jpg
Now playing
01:18
Lion killer breaks his silence
trophy hunting explainer mckenzie orig_00004711.jpg
trophy hunting explainer mckenzie orig_00004711.jpg
Now playing
01:50
Inside the world of trophy hunting
This handout picture taken on October 21, 2012 and released on July 28, 2015 by the Zimbabwe National Parks agency shows a much-loved Zimbabwean lion called "Cecil" which was allegedly killed by an American tourist on a hunt using a bow and arrow, the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force charity accused on July 15, 2015, adding that the animal had taken 40 hours to die. The lion, which was a popular attraction among visitors to the Hwange National Park, was tempted outside the park using bait and then shot earlier this month.
PHOTO: ZIMBABWE NATIONAL PARKS/AFP/Getty Images
This handout picture taken on October 21, 2012 and released on July 28, 2015 by the Zimbabwe National Parks agency shows a much-loved Zimbabwean lion called "Cecil" which was allegedly killed by an American tourist on a hunt using a bow and arrow, the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force charity accused on July 15, 2015, adding that the animal had taken 40 hours to die. The lion, which was a popular attraction among visitors to the Hwange National Park, was tempted outside the park using bait and then shot earlier this month.
Now playing
05:09
Zimbabwean: 'I was excited' when Cecil was killed
This handout picture taken on October 21, 2012 and released on July 28, 2015 by the Zimbabwe National Parks agency shows a much-loved Zimbabwean lion called "Cecil" which was allegedly killed by an American tourist on a hunt using a bow and arrow, the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force charity accused on July 15, 2015, adding that the animal had taken 40 hours to die. The lion, which was a popular attraction among visitors to the Hwange National Park, was tempted outside the park using bait and then shot earlier this month.
PHOTO: ZIMBABWE NATIONAL PARKS/AFP/Getty Images
This handout picture taken on October 21, 2012 and released on July 28, 2015 by the Zimbabwe National Parks agency shows a much-loved Zimbabwean lion called "Cecil" which was allegedly killed by an American tourist on a hunt using a bow and arrow, the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force charity accused on July 15, 2015, adding that the animal had taken 40 hours to die. The lion, which was a popular attraction among visitors to the Hwange National Park, was tempted outside the park using bait and then shot earlier this month.
Now playing
01:43
Are Zimbabweans outraged over the killing of Cecil the lion?
CNN's David McKenzie speaks to a lion researcher about the loss of Cecil the lion
PHOTO: CNN
CNN's David McKenzie speaks to a lion researcher about the loss of Cecil the lion
Now playing
01:54
Lion researcher: We knew this is how Cecil would die
Now playing
01:26
Lion hunter dentist could face the law
Pic 2: Palmer in a suit (professional photo from his dentistry page.) Source: River Bluffs Dental
PHOTO: River Bluffs Dental
Pic 2: Palmer in a suit (professional photo from his dentistry page.) Source: River Bluffs Dental
Now playing
03:47
American dentist says he regrets killing famed lion
PHOTO: from youtube
Now playing
02:55
Beloved lion killed, hunter says he has regrets
Now playing
01:52
Cecil the lion's killer thought hunt was legal
dentist faces backlash after killing lion young ac_00000110.jpg
dentist faces backlash after killing lion young ac_00000110.jpg
Now playing
04:24
Cecil the lion's death renews calls for hunting ban
Zimbabwe police seek U.S. man in lion killing_00025005.jpg
Zimbabwe police seek U.S. man in lion killing_00025005.jpg
Now playing
02:55
Zimbabwe police seek U.S. man in lion killing
PHOTO: from YouTube
Now playing
01:01
Tourist suspected in killing of Cecil the lion
PHOTO: from YouTube
Now playing
02:22
Zimbabwe hunts killer of Cecil the Lion

“If a lion is killed, I really don’t care, because it destroys our cattle,” she says. “The children in this part of Zimbabwe walk long distances to get to school. Lions and other animals are a threat.”

Sibanda’s granddaughter Tamaka walks two miles each way to get to class. Tamaka’s mother says, “I hope she can walk to school and come back safely because of the wild animals.”

The Sibandas say they get no money from the tourists or hunters that drive past their homestead on the way to the park. And Zimbabweans we’ve talked to say there are other things the world needs to focus on, like corruption and the cost of living.

“Here in Zimbabwe we are starving, the life we are living here now is difficult. You can’t live,” says Charles Nkomo, who we meet at a bus stop.

He says the world should care more about Zimbabwe’s people, not its lions.

But Stapelkamp believes there is space for both. He hopes the killing of Cecil will raise enough awareness to help the country create sustainable conservation that can help local communities.

And he has gotten a signal for Jericho. It’s a faint “tuk tuk tuk” on the receiver.

Stapelkamp hopes it too won’t fade away.