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Celebrities react to Cecil the lion's death

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The news that Cecil the lion has been killed in what appears to be a poaching incident has sparked outrage across the world, and not only from animal rights activists. Celebrities including Ricky Gervais, Joanna Lumley and models Candice Swanepoel and Behati Prinsloo have all voiced their strong opinions online.

Cecil, who was Zimbabwe's most famous lion and the star attraction of the Hwange National Park, was lured out of his home in early July by professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst and farm owner Honest Ndlovu.

The two men were paid by American dentist Walter Palmer, who was responsible for shooting the 13-year-old lion with a bow and arrow. Cecil was then tracked for 40 hours before he was killed. Mr Palmer maintains that he thought the hunt was "legal".

walter palmer © Photo: Rex

American dentist Walter Palmer killed Cecil the Lion in early July

Animal lover and comedian Ricky Gervais led the tributes on Twitter and shared a picture of a majestic lion, writing: "RIP #CecilTheLion I'm struggling to imagine anything more beautiful than this."

Geri Halliwell followed suit, posting an old photo of herself kissing a lion cub. "I love lions, met this cat many yrs ago. One of the most memorable moments of my life #cecil the lion," she wrote.

Sharon Osbourne and Cara Delevingne made no attempt to hide their anger, with the former X Factor judge tweeting that she hoped the dentist lost his home and his practice. Meanwhile Cara posted: "This #WalterPalmer is a poor excuse of a human being!"

View post on Twitter

Animal lover and comedian Ricky Gervais shared a photo of a lion (not Cecil)

Fellow model Candice Swanepoel expressed her outrage on Instagram, captioning a photo: "How dare you #walterpalmer!!!! As a South African and as a human being I can't express how deeply saddened I am by this, what pleasure do you get out of doing such a thing! Seeing these animals alive in their natural habitat is such a blessing, you have to be so sick to want to kill such a majestic creature of God."

Behati Prinsloo, from Namibia, made a photo collage of the dentist posing with animals he has killed in the past and wrote that her heart was breaking. "How can we still allow people to hunt down these incredible animals. I want my kids to grow up seeing these animals in the wild, NOT on your wall..."

View post on Twitter

Geri Halliwell posted a throwback photo of herself and a lion cub

Sharing the same opinion, Joanna Lumley said on This Morning: "It's so shocking, and [has] shocked, quite rightly, everybody in the world. What it also has brought a focus on, is how many wild animals we do continue to kill for fun… it's absolutely horrifying. They have a right to live. This lion had a right to live."

The two men who facilitated the hunt arrived in court in Zimbabwe on Wednesday morning. The pair could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.

Mr Palmer, 55, has returned to the US although his exact whereabouts are not known. His practice was closed on Tuesday and members of the public left stuffed toy animals of lions outside the front door.

View post on Twitter
View post on Twitter

In a statement released to the public, Mr Palmer, who is believed to have paid £32,000 for the hunt, said that he regretted killing Cecil. "I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favourite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt.

"I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt. I have not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the US about this situation, but will assist them in any inquiries they may have."

The big game hunter has previously been convicted of unlawfully killing a black bear in the state of Wisconsin in 2006. Mr Palmer had a permit to hunt, but he shot the bear in an unauthorised zone, leaving him with a felony on his record.

Cecil was being monitored as part of an Oxford University study into lion conservation.