Cecil The Lion Beanie Baby Will Raise Funds For The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit In Honor Of The Big Cat's Memory

Following the July 2 death of Cecil the lion, toy company Ty Inc. will release a Cecil the Lion Beanie Baby, both to raise awareness for wildlife conservation and to raise funds for the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) of the University of Oxford. Bored Panda reports that the Cecil Beanie will be available for purchase in September of 2015; the toy will retail for approximately $5.99, with 100 percent of the profits from sales going to WildCRU. Said company founder and chairman Ty Warner in a press release, “Hopefully, this special Beanie Baby will raise awareness for animal conservation and give comfort to all saddened by the loss of Cecil.”

WildCRU had been following Cecil's movements since 2008 as part of a study that has been running since 1999; indeed, this research is largely what made Cecil so popular: He epitomized the very idea of “lion” while also being accustomed to people. Said field researcher Brent Stapelkamp to National Geographic, “Cecil was the ultimate lion. He was everything that a lion represents to us as humans. He was large, powerful, but regal at the same time.”

Founded in 1986, WildCRU has the distinction of being the very first university-based conservation research unit in the entirety of Europe. Founder David Macdonald's goal was “to tackle the emerging biodiversity crisis and wider environmental issues by bridging the gap between academic theory and practical problem solving.” Now home to more than 50 researchers, it's one of the largest, most productive conservation units in the world.

There's a little bit of an elephant in the room here, though, so let's take a second to acknowledge it: As the Chicago Tribune notes, Ty Warner is known both for his philanthropy and for being convicted of tax evasion. Warner plead guilty to one count of tax evasion in 2013; he was sentenced to two years of probation and 500 hours of community service, which was upheld in July of 2015 by a three judge 7th Circuit Court of Appeals panel.

But Ty Inc. has frequently allied itself with wildlife conservation efforts as well, so the company's move to help in the aftermath of Cecil's death is a welcome one. It echoes the series of Beanie Babies released in 2004 that benefited the World Wildlife Fund, only with a lot more punch to it: The World Wildlife Fund series donated only six percent of profits to the organization, while the percentage for the Cecil the Lion Beanie Baby will be 100. And neither is Ty Inc. the only company to have responded to Cecil's death — Delta Airlines, for example, immediately banned the transportation of big game trophies on its flights.

Will these gestures fix the larger problem? No — but as they say, every little bit helps. The Cecil Beanie Baby will be available for purchase in September.

Image: Ty Inc.