When Cecil the lion was killed outside of a national park in Zimbabwe in 2015, it sparked worldwide ire and months of mourning and attention. Cecil, a large black-maned lion, was a protected animal and his death at the hands of an American dentist on a hunting trip was analyzed from every possible angle.
Nearly three years later, a new book by a lion researcher provides more detail into the animal’s final hours, and seeks to correct some misunderstandings about Cecil’s death.
Lion researcher Dr. Andrew Loveridge spoke extensively to game staff, researchers and community members in the Hwange National Park area where Cecil lived. His findings, published in “Lion Hearted: The Life and Death of Cecil and the Future of Africa’s Iconic Cats,” suggest the lion suffered slowly after being shot by an arrow, though not as long as initial reports suggested.
“In media reports it was widely touted that Cecil suffered in agony for 40 hours. This claim is inaccurate and exaggerated. It’s unlikely he’d have lived that long with such a severe thoracic injury,” Loveridge writes in a passage excerpted in National Geographic.
“However, he most definitely did not die instantly and almost certainly suffered considerably. Judging from the events described by Cornelius and the data sent by the GPS collar, the injured lion most likely was killed 10 to 12 hours after being wounded.”
“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.”
According to Loveridge, Cecil’s death blow came from a second arrow fired from a compound bow. Loveridge’s findings also corroborate accounts that the lion was deliberately lured outside of the confines of the national park in order to skirt regulations.
Cecil’s killer Walter Palmer was publicly shunned and excoriated, but ultimately did not face any charges in the lion’s death.
The book, “Lion Hearted” comes out April 10.