An American hunter has killed Cecil the lion, one of Africa’s most beloved icons and a long-time boom for tourism for the nation of Zimbabwe. The international furor that has ensued include death threats to the hunter, Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota.

13-year-old Cecil the lion’s habitat was Hwange National Park, and he had, over the years, become a familiar figure to locals and tourists alike, eventually becoming a major tourist draw for the nation.

Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, allegedly paid $55,000 for local guides to take him on safari. What happened next sparked controversy unlike anything the hunting community has seen in recent years.

The hunters lured him out of the park, the conservation group said, and Palmer then shot the lion with a bow and arrow, a method he is known for. But the arrow wasn’t enough to kill Cecil, who survived for another 40 hours until the hunters tracked him down and shot him with a gun.

The big cat was then skinned and beheaded, and the hunters tried to destroy the GPS collar that Cecil was wearing as part of research backed by Oxford University, the group said.

“I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt,” Palmer said in a statement issued Tuesday. “I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.”

People around the world have taken up arms against Palmer, threatening violence against the man, and even posting inflammatory reviews on his dental practice’s Yelp page.

What’s particularly damning for Palmer is the fact that he has a history of breaking laws while hunting. A 2009 New York Times article noted that even then Palmer was throwing around significant cash in his quest to target animals — not often legally.

As the season began, Palmer was completing a year of probation. In 2008, court records show, he pleaded guilty to making a false statement to federal wildlife officials concerning the exact location of the slaying of a black bear during a guided hunt in Wisconsin. In his sentencing order, prosecutors had specifically agreed that the “defendant shall be permitted to possess archery equipment for lawful sporting purposes.”

The details of this latest hunt show a similar disregard for local regulations. Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force spokesman Johnny Rodrigues provided the details to UK’s The Guardian.

“They went hunting at night with a spotlight and they spotted Cecil,” Rodrigues said. “They tied a dead animal to their vehicle to lure Cecil out of the park and they scented an area about half a kilometre from the park.”

The hunter first shot at Cecil with a bow and arrow but failed to kill the lion. “They tracked him down and found him 40 hours later when they shot him with a gun,” Rodrigues said.

Palmer has also been accused with bribing local officials and of removing Cecil’s electronic collar. Two arrests have been made in the case already, and Zimbabwean officials would like to have Palmer brought back into the country for questioning. Palmer, who does not deny the kill, claims that it was done legally.

Is Palmer an unwitting player caught up in the poor judgment call of his hunting guides? Or did he intentionally lure the big cat onto unprotected land to make the kill? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Photo: New York Daily News