Ty launches ‘Cecil the Lion’ Beanie Baby as fundraiser

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OAKBROOK, Ill. — Cecil the lion, the big cat slain in Zimbabwe last month by an American hunter, is now to be immortalized as a plush toy.

Amid widespread sorrow and outrage over the lion’s death, toy manufacturer Ty Inc. announced Monday that it would be releasing a Beanie Baby in tribute to Cecil.

All profits from the sale of the plush toy, which features a dark ruff like the distinctive mane that helped make Cecil such a hit with tourists in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, will go to aid conservation efforts.

The recipient will be the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at the UK’s Oxford University, known as WildCRU, which had been tracking Cecil since 2008.

WildCRU said Tuesday it has now raised more than 500,000 British pounds ($780,000) in donations since news of the lion’s killing emerged, helped by a $100,000 donation by U.S. billionaire philanthropists Tom and Daphne Kaplan.

Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer, his professional hunter guide and the owner of the land where the hunt took place are accused by Zimbabwean authorities of an illegal hunt under the country’s Parks and Wildlife Act.

Palmer allegedly paid $50,000 in early July to hunt the lion with a crossbow near the national park in western Zimbabwe.

He has said he relied on the expertise of local guides “to ensure a legal hunt.”

On Monday, Zimbabwe named a second American man in connection with an allegedly illegal hunt.

The incident — separate from the killing of Cecil the lion in July — involved an allegedly illegal hunt put on by a safari guide who has been arrested for his role in it. The U.S. man, a doctor from Pennsylvania, had hired the guide, Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said.

CNN is not naming the doctor, who has not been charged. Zimbabwe also has not requested his extradition. The man has not yet commented on the statement.

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