Harare - A hunters' association in Zimbabwe says it is investigating the circumstances surrounding the unexpected killing of one of the country's best-known lions on a hunt last week.
There has been outrage following the news that black-maned Cecil, a much-photographed lion from the Hwange area in western Zimbabwe, was killed on a hunting safari.
Wildlife fans say Cecil was extremely relaxed around visitors and apparently a favourite with those on photographic safaris, who sometimes travelled long distances to watch him.
He had been seen in the area for the last 13 years and was often in the company of another male lion known locally as Jericho.
Circumstances surrounding Cecil's death are not yet entirely clear. There are claims he was wounded with a bow and arrow and then shot. He was reportedly wearing a collar when he was killed.
Zimbabwean hunters posting in online forums have insisted the hunt was legal.
The Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association (ZPHGA) said in its statement late Monday that the lion was killed "outside [Hwange National] park on private land on a safari".
"An investigation is ongoing at this time. We are awaiting all relevant documentation for verification," the association said, confirming that the professional hunter involved was one of its members.
A lion hunt in Zimbabwe can cost a foreign client up to $45 000, insiders say. Unconfirmed reports say that the client on this hunt was from Spain.
News of Cecil's death has reignited the testy war of words between trophy hunters and those who are strongly opposed to hunting.
One reader posted to Safari Guide Africa's Facebook page: "Heartbroken. Cecil was beautiful and majestic a true King. He will be sorely missed."
The ZPHGA said: "We do not know all the facts yet."