Africa

Cecil the lion bronze statue planned, says wildlife group

Cecil the lion pictured in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park - 21 October 2012 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Metal sculptor John Binder said he wanted to make the statue as life-like as possible

Cecil the lion, whose death at the hands of hunters in Zimbabwe prompted worldwide outrage, may be commemorated by a bronze statue at the entrance to the park where he lived.

A conservation group has announced it wants to erect a life-sized statue of Cecil at Hwange National Park.

Cecil was shot in July by US dentist Walter Palmer. Zimbabwe is seeking his extradition.

The death made headlines around the world, and sent Mr Palmer into hiding.

Cecil was shot outside Hwange park using a bow and arrow. Mr Palmer says he thought the hunt was legal but two Zimbabwean men have been arrested over the killing.

Cheryl Rodrigues of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said people had already offered donations for the sculpture - the cost of which has not yet been confirmed.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The plan is for the statue to be positioned at the entrance to the park where Cecil lived

She said: "Cecil was such an icon and it's created such a fuss everywhere we thought it would be nice to do it."

The group has commissioned John Binda of Birds for Africa to make the statue and said it would be an "excellent reminder to all who visit the park".

Mr Binda, a metal sculptor for 24 years, said he was "a little bit thunderstruck" to be asked and when his wife Debbie found out she nearly fell over.

"There's a hell of a lot of pressure," he said.

He called Cecil's death "crazy, stupid" and down to "sheer greed", but added: "We are going to have to be detached from the emotion and get on with the job."

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Media captionBrent Stapelkamp told the BBC's Alastair Leithead that he had found the international reaction to Cecil's killing "overwhelming"

His previous work includes statues of a pride of lions at a private game lodge in South Africa.

Oxford University had been studying Cecil for lion conservation and Mr Binder said he was hoping researchers could tell him how much the lion weighed and his dimensions to make the sculpture as realistic as possible.

Mrs Rodrigues said it was not clear whether a permit would be needed from the park for the statue to be placed at the entrance.

But some have criticised the plan, telling the organisation on their Facebook page that it would be more beneficial to use the money to counter corruption and improve conservation.

This is not the only legacy project afoot for the 13-year-old animal renowned for being friendly towards visitors.

Earlier this week the conservation group's chairman Johnny Rodrigues suggested Cecil's head be mounted in a glass case.

Meanwhile, China, which has been criticised for fuelling the trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn, announced on Thursday it was pledging £1m ($2m) for equipment to curb poaching in Zimbabwe.

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