A petition demanding justice for a beloved Zimbabwe lion that was reportedly killed by an American dentist earlier this month has reached hundreds of thousands of signatures, with numbers continuing to rise.
Dr. Walter Palmer caused uproar after killing Cecil the lion during a bow-hunting trip in Zimbabwe on July 1. Cecil was one of the most famous animals in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park, according to the petition posted on The Petition Site.
The 13-year-old big cat was a tourist attraction at the park and on safari tours, and he was known to calmly walk alongside cars, Mashable reported.
The petition, “Demand Justice for Cecil The Lion In Zimbabwe,” was authored by Ruth McD and is directed at Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. Launched July 23, it has gotten more than 460,000 signatures in six days.
According to the petition, Palmer, from Minnesota, paid $55,000 for a hunting permit before shooting Cecil. The lion was lured out of the national park -- where it is illegal to kill wildlife -- and was shot with a bow and arrow.
Reports say Cecil was initially only wounded. He died 40 hours later when the hunters tracked him down, shot him with a rifle and collected his skin and head as trophies, according to The Petition Site.
“Demand Justice for Cecil The Lion In Zimbabwe” is now seeking justice for the much-adored creature by calling for Zimbabwe to stop issuing permits that allow hunters to kill endangered animals.
Mugabe has yet to comment on the killing, according to Mashable.
On July 28, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority issued a statement declaring the hunt that killed Cecil illegal and holding the professional hunter and landowner responsible.
Palmer issued his own statement the same day, saying he was unaware his actions were prohibited. He noted that he thought “everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted.” Additionally, he “had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite,” until after the hunt, according to Mashable.
Zimbabwean police said they were “looking for Palmer,” but the dentist claims that he has yet to be contacted by any authorities. Palmer said should he be contacted, he will “assist them in any inquiries.”
Reports say locals involved in the hunt may now face poaching charges. The locals, including the professional guide Palmer hired as well as the owner of the land who hosted the hunt, are due in court Aug. 6.