Professor who studied Cecil the lion calls for donations

A screenshot of Cecil from a tourist's online video.
A screenshot of Cecil from a tourist's online video.YOUTUBE

LONDON (AFP) - People moved by the death of Zimbabwe's beloved Cecil the lion should donate to conservation efforts to save Africa's dwindling population of the giant cats, a professor who spent years tracking Cecil said Wednesday.

"This has obviously caused an enormous stir internationally with millions of people concerned about it," said Professor David Macdonald, founding director of the University of Oxford's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, which had tracked Cecil since 2008.

"If all of those millions of people were to donate just a little bit of money to our project then it would revolutionise our capacity to work for the conservation of lions."

The killing of 13-year-old Cecil, a beloved resident of Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park, sparked an outpouring of anger against a wealthy American dentist accused of paying US$50,000 (S$68,000) to illegally lure the lion out of the park to be killed as a trophy.

The professor called for donations via the project's website to fund the training of local Zimbabwean conservationists, for anti-poaching patrols, and tracking devices for the lions which cost £1,500 (S$3,200).

"In west Africa, lions have been disappearing at a catastrophic rate. In central and eastern Africa they appear to be declining fast," Macdonald said.


An estimate several years ago put Africa's remaining number of lions at 30,000, but all evidence indicates there could now be far fewer, Macdonald said.

Cecil's death could lead to the collapse of his "coalition" due to the social behaviour of lions, including Cecil's brother and his cubs, Macdonald added.

"An important conservation consideration is that the death of one male may lead to a cascade of other deaths," Macdonald said.

"At a personal level as I have watched this lion... and gloried in his magnificence and beauty... I was very deeply saddened by this," Macdonald told AFP.

"To the extent that it was illegal it was completely reprehensible. But I hope that some good might come out of it in terms of raising the profile of lion conservation around the world."

Dentist Walter Palmer, 55, an experienced trophy hunter from Minnesota, is accused of shooting Cecil with a bow and arrow.

The animal was eventually shot dead 40 hours later.