Cecil the Lion
An image of Cecil the lion is projected over the Empire State Building in New YorkGetty

New York's Empire State Building honoured Cecil the lion and other endangered animals with a dazzling video display on 1 August.

New Yorkers turned out to see the illuminations projected over a 33-floor span on the southern face of the iconic building, aimed to raise awareness about animals facing an imminent threat of extinction.

In all 160 animals were showcased, including snow leopards, tigers, manta rays, various birds, mammals and insects.

The production was a collaborative effort between the Oceanic Preservation Society and the makers of "Racing Extinction", a documentary that draws attention to the alarming rate at which endangered species are dying out.

"We're set to lose half the species on the planet by the end of the century," Oscar-winning documentary maker Louie Psihoyos said at the event, according to NBC New York.

An image of Cecil, a 13-year-old male African lion whose recent killing by an American recreational hunter in Zimbabwe drew international outrage, was also included in the display.

"There are only 3,500 wild male lions out there. The gun lobby keeps them from being on the list but they are endangered," Psihoyos said.

"At least there are other lions left. I've photographed some species where it's the last male of a species, like the Rabbs' Fringe-limbed tree frog."

Scientists believe the Earth is going through a sixth great extinction event driven by human activity.

The last such event happened 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs were wiped out most likely by a large meteor hitting the Earth.

The "Racing Extinction" documentary will air in the US on the Discovery Channel on 2 December.