US dentist sought by Zimbabwe authorities over killing of famous African lion Cecil

Cecil, a lion popular with tourists in Zimbabwe, is believed to have been killed by game hunter Walter Palmer

A US game hunter has sparked outrage after he reportedly shot dead one of Africa's most famous lions.

Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minneapolis, has admitted that he may have shot the 13-year-old lion, a star attraction at the Hwange national park, his spokesman told The Guardian.

The American now faces poaching charges, according to police spokeswoman Charity Charamba.

"We arrested two people and now we are looking for Palmer in connection with the same case," she said.

Cecil, who conservationists say enjoyed human contact, was lured out of the park by guides and was wounded by a bow and arrow. The hunters tracked him down 40 hours later and shot him.

Palmer, a prolific hunter, had paid $50,000 (£32,000) to guides for the chance to shoot a lion, his spokesman said.

Cecil's remains were found skinned and beheaded on the outskirts of the park. His head and pelt are still missing.

Since 1999, Cecil has been part of an Oxford University research project that required him to wear a GPS collar.

Johnny Rodrigues, from the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, said the hunters had tried but failed to destroy the collar, which tracked the animal's last movements.

Walter Palmer

Two people believed to have organised the hunt for Mr Palmer were arrested following the killing of Cecil earlier this month and are due in court tomorrow.

Zimbabwe National Parks issued a statement confirming the charges.

Cecil had a distinctive black mane

"It was a magnificent, mature lion," said Mr Bronkhorst ahead of his appearance at Hwange magistrates court.

"We did not know it was well-known lion. I had a licence for my client to shoot a lion with a bow and arrow in the area where it was shot."

If convicted, the men face up to 15 years in prison.

Walter Palmer

Conservationists said that as a consequence of Cecil's death, the lion's six cubs are also likely to perish.

"The next lion in the hierarchy, Jericho will most likely kill all Cecil's cubs so that he can insert his own bloodline into the females," Mr Rodrigues said. "This is standard procedure for lions."

Palmer, 55, was interviewed by the New York Times in 2009 about his record-breaking kill of an elk.

At the time, Palmer, a father-of-two, was on probation after lying about where he had killed a black bear in Wisconsin three years earlier.

In a statement, Palmer said that the hunting trip was "legal and properly handled and conducted".

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