Texas hunters react to illegal killing of Cecil the Lion

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Texas hunters offer their opinions about the illegal killing of Cecil the Lion (Andy Loveridge/Wildlife Conservation Research Unit via AP)

The killing of Cecil, the African lion, in Zimbabwe has drawn worldwide criticism and not only from animal rights groups.

Here in Houston, some hunters are also critical of the lion's death.

Last month, according to the Zimbabwe government, Cecil was lured outside the wildlife preserve where he lived. He wore a GPS collar and was the subject of a British university study. "Beloved" is the word the government used to describe the majestic lion.

Cecil was shot with an arrow by a Minnesota dentist, who paid 50 thousand dollars for a permit to hunt and kill a lion. According to African authorities, the 2 game hunters he hired lured Cecil from his protected preserve by pulling meat on the back of a truck.

Cecil was not killed by the area, but wounded. He was tracked for 40 hours before he was found and shot. Reports state that his head was removed as a trophy as well as the hide. The carcass was discarded, rather than being used as food.

At NRG Center, thousands of hunters turned out over the weekend for a hunting expo. Most of them focus on native wildlife, especially white tail deer, and deer season is not far away.

Hunting is a tradition for a lot of Texas families, from children to grandparents. There is also a hunting code in Texas, which goes beyond that of a sport, to what some call a responsibility.

Conservation is behind what Tommy Hunt says is behind it. "Without population control, you have genetic problems in herds. It prevents diseases, and starvation. But I don't believe in hunting endangered animals."

In Africa, big game can be had legally, for a large permit price. The killing of a rare black rhino in the past year, in exchange for several hundred thousand dollars generated a lot of comment, and anger.

In this case, Cecil was viewed as protected. The game guides involved have been arrested and charged with poaching. Zimbabwe authorities are asking Dr. Walter Palmer be extradited. Palmer has previously stated he did not know Cecil was a local favorite and protected.

The Starke family, were outside the hunting expo, are hunters, but don't agree with what happened to the lion. "There aren't many African lions," said Jennifer Starke's daughter. "They're rare." The girl's younger brother was troubled by the aftermath of Cecil's death, saying responsible hunters always harvest the meat.

It's a story that has sharply divided opinions around the world. When asked if the death of a lion, allegedly by poaching, will impact hunter elsewhere, one lifelong hunter replied, "No. Here we hunt responsibly."
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