Cecil the Lion
The petition following the killing of Cecil the Lion has garnered over 200,000 signatures and calls for the government to stop issuing hunting permits.YouTube

A petition seeking justice for Cecil the lion has already won over 200,000 signatures after Zimbabwe's beloved lion was shot by an American dentist.

The petition from Ruth McD on the Care2 Petitions site asks Zimbabwe to stop issuing permits that allow hunting of endangered animals, says The Telegraph.

LionAid, a UK-based organisation involved in lion research in Africa, has also sought a total moratorium on all lion trophy hunting imports into the EU from any African country until verifiable independent lion population counts are undertaken.

The lion was lured out of a national park with help from local hunters and killed by the dentist using a bow and arrow.

The lion was found skinned and decapitated with his head taken away as trophy.

Walter Palmer from Minnesota paid £35,000 for the hunting permit. He now faces poaching charges, said Zimbabwe police.

Theo Bronchorst, a professional hunter, faces illegal hunting charges for using bait and luring Cecil half a mile away from a national park.

His hunting licence has been suspended, according to Zimbabwe's National Parks and Wildlife Authority and the country's Safari Operations Association.

Palmer has since apologised for the killing saying he was not aware it was a local favourite.

Social network sites have reacted angrily to the killing and called for publicly shaming the dentist, and even hunting him down.

Back in the US, Palmer has been in trouble with authorities over his hunting expeditions that have killed elk and black bear in prohibited areas.

The dentist has been featured in many hunting magazines, posing next to slain animals, including a wood bison, lion, leopard and rhino, say media reports.

While the African lion is listed vulnerable globally given the rapid population declines in both western and eastern Africa, it is not currently listed as threatened or endangered under the US federal Endangered Species Act.

Conservationists are calling for a ban on import of lion trophies into the US, arguing that a mere listing of the lion as threatened would not stop the hunts, says The Guardian.