Cecil was wounded with an arrow by Walter Palmer, an American recreational big-game hunter, was then tracked, and on 1 July 2015, reportedly killed with a rifle approximately 40 hours later. Palmer himself claims that Cecil was killed with a bow and arrow in much less than 40 hours after the lion was first wounded. He was 13 years old when killed. Two men in Zimbabwe are being prosecuted in relation to the hunt. Palmer had a permit and was not charged with any crime. Authorities in Zimbabwe have said he is free to visit the country as a tourist but not as a hunter.
The killing resulted in international media attention and caused outrage among animal conservationists and criticism by politicians and celebrities, as well as a strong negative response against Palmer. Five months after the killing of Cecil, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added two subspecies of lion, in India and western and central Africa, to the endangered species list, which includes the species of Cecil, making it more difficult for US citizens to kill these lions. According to Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society, Cecil had “changed the atmospherics on the issue of trophy hunting around the world,” adding “I think it gave less wiggle room to regulators.