Why Cecil The Lion's Death Is Such A Big Deal — And It's Not Just Because Of 'The Lion King'

The biggest death to hit headlines this year might just be for one who roamed the earth on four legs. On Tuesday, Zimbabwe officials claimed the person responsible for beloved Cecil the lion's death was American dentist Walter Palmer, who has since admitted he pulled the trigger to kill one of Africa's most prized animals. In a statement, Palmer maintained he believed the hunt was legal, though he could face charges in the United States or Zimbabwe. But as the Internet rose in solidarity to express outrage at Palmer and glory hunting at large, the overwhelming response highlighted why Cecil the lion's death is a big deal.

Palmer certainly isn't the first to ignite an online firestorm for participating in a big-game hunt. In April, Rebecca Francis became the target after comedian Ricky Gervais tweeted a photo of her lying down and smiling next to a dead giraffe. There was also that awkward moment when the Internet mob attacked Steven Spielberg for posing next to a dead Triceratops, an image that was actually from the 1993 set of Jurassic Park. (Yes, people thought dinosaurs were still alive.)

So what is it about a hunted animal that gets people up in arms? Conservatives to liberals, celebrities and the everyday folk — so many people spoke out on Twitter to mourn Cecil and condemn Palmer and the Zimbabwean government for even allowing lion hunting, legal or not.

Regardless of where you fall politically, or on global warming specifically, it is undeniable that people have had an impact on the earth and the species living on its land. Today, there are an estimated 23,000 to 40,000 lions roaming the wild, down from a population of 200,000 a century ago, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Poaching and habitat destruction are two of the biggest factors in their dwindling numbers.

Wild animals are like the last window into the past, remnants of what life on earth was like when before human dominance. Particularly when it comes to the king of the jungle, which most of the world will rarely encounter outside the zoo, it's especially heartbreaking to hear of a majestic and regal beast so brutally stalked and killed. A hunted lion represents a global failure to backtrack on its mass industrialization for the sake of conservatism. And in the case of Cecil, who was part of a conservation project in Hwange National Park, even man-made laws created to protect him couldn't save him.

Images: Bryan Orford/YouTube