Remembering Cecil the Lion

For the last decade, Brent Stapelkamp has been studying and photographing lions with Oxford University’s Hwange Lion Research Project. The Zimbabwe group’s work gained international attention after Cecil, a 13-year-old local favorite, was shot and killed by a Minnesota dentist last year. “Thousands of hours in the company of lions meant I got a unique perspective of their lives and the threats that they face,” Stapelkamp said. His images, which are currently on display at the Anastasia Gallery, are perhaps the best way to understand the the world that Cecil inhabited. Within the 5,657-square-mile national park, the lions in Cecil’s pride can be found hunting, playing, and resting within close proximity to human visitors. It was this exposure to tourists, Stapelkamp said, that made Cecil vulnerable to the hunters who were waiting just beyond the railroad that serves as a border to the park. “He was the biggest on the block,” Stapelkamp said, “that gave him a real confidence that people found mesmerizing.” The final photo in this series was taken the last time Stapelkamp saw him, a little more than a month before Cecil was killed.