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Cecil The Lion Scientist Admits Hunting Has A Part To Play In Conservation - But There's No Place For Killing Lions

29/07/2015 18:04 BST | Updated 29/07/2015 18:59 BST

Hunting has a part to play in African conservation - but there is no place for killing lions, one of the researchers monitoring Cecil the Lion, who was killed by an American dentist, has said.

Speaking to The Huffington Post UK from his office in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, Brent Stapelkamp said it had been an "emotional time" following the death of the park's 13-year-old lion earlier this month.

"There's been a tornado of interest from the world," he said. "I feel that this is going to dramatically change the landscape for lion conservation."

Cecil was lured out of the park and shot with a crossbow by Walter Palmer, an "elite hunter" from Minnesota. Palmer, who has sparked an outcry for his arrest, insists he did nothing wrong.

Stapelkamp took what is believed to be the last known photograph of Cecil

The dentist has since gone into hiding, and released a statement via a local PR firm stating: "I hired several professional guides, and they secured all proper permits.

"To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted. 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."

Oxford University's zoology department had been tracking lions in the Hwange park since 1999, and Cecil had worn an identity collar as part of the project - which enabled Stapelkamp and his team to realise something was wrong.

Stapelkamp checks the collars of the 500 or so lions who live in the park every day, and noticed Cecil's collar had stopped transmitting data. After hearing rumours a lion had been shot, the researcher sent a team to investigate. The next day, Cecil's carcass was found, decapitated, skinned, and ravaged by vultures.

"Lion hunting," Stapelkamp says, "there is no place for it."

He continues: "I think hunting has a part to play in African wildlife conservation as it allows land that is not really useful for anything else - including photographic safaris - to provide an income and remain as wildlife habitat.

"But and this is a big BUT.. it has to be controlled and transparent and the funds it generates need to come back to the land that provided it."

trophy hunt america

Palmer was previously described as an "elite hunter" in a 2009 New York Times article

It has now emerged a House Of Common's inquiry is being considered since the news of Cecil's death, with one MP saying he wanted to examine the poaching of animals, also including elephants, rhinos and tigers, and trafficking from Africa and Asia.

The African lion is not currently listed as threatened or endangered under the US's Endangered Species Act, meaning it is legal to import lion trophies, while the EU's import ban does not extend to Zimbabwe. More than 200 lions are legally killed and turned into trophies and sent to Europe every year.

Speaking with regards to illegal hunting, Stapelkamp added: "We have seen this type of thing a number of times over the years and I believe that with that in mind the US Fish and Wildlife are restricting things.

"The industry needs to clean up it's act for sure."

Despite his devastation at Cecil's death, Stapelkamp remains positive.

"I am very excited by the momentum this has generated. We are going to see changes for the better."

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