WASHINGTON D.C. —
The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force has embarked on an initiative to raise $35,000 to erect a gold statue of Cecil, the13-year-old slain Zimbabwean lion, in the Hwange National Park.
Cecil was killed in an illegal hunt by American dentist Walter Palmer early July.
His killing sparked global outrage and left many ordinary Zimbabweans, who did know of Cecil's existence, bemused by the outpouring of international grief over one of their big cats.
Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force’s head Johnny Rodrigues says erecting the statue would attract more tourists to Zimbabwe as Cecil has become an overnight sensation following his untimely death.
“Thirty-five thousand dollars might seem like a big deal now, but when tourists start frequenting Zimbabwe because of Cecil, only then people will see the economic impact of having created the statue,” said Rodrigues.
Some Zimbabweans have called the initiative to raise funds for the statue a ridiculous waste of money but Rodrigues says it is worth it.
Some Zimbabweans who wrote on the Game Reserves Facebook group page urged the group to spend the money protecting wildlife in the country and buying water pumps to provide drinking water for game in the park.
Cecil was a major attraction for tourists at the Hwange National Park and the University of Oxford was following him as part of a larger study on lions.