And the price to fire the lethal bullet: $55,000 paid by a Minnesota dentist named Walter Palmer.
A seasoned big game hunter, Palmer would travel the world in pursuit of animal trophies. But back in his home town on Tuesday, he defended his actions.
"I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt," Palmer said in a written statement.
But Brent Stapelkamp, who was part of an Oxford University scientific team that studied Cecil for seven years, said that hunters would have known what they were doing.
"If you are going to come to a country like Zimbabwe and you're going to pay that sort of money, you should have done your homework," Stapelkamp told CBS News. "You should know which areas you're going to be hunting . On their hunting forums it would have been mentioned that there was no lion quota in Ngwaya."
A court spokesperson said the two local hunters are out on $1,000 bail. The date for their next court appearance is August 5.