Tyler Vendetti
August 04, 2015 11:27 am

By now you’ve heard the terrible story of an American dentist who stalked and killed a beloved (and endangered) lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe. Since Cecil’s death, animal rights activists and animal lovers around the world have teamed up to honor the animal and raise awareness about “big game” hunting practices. Money has been raised, in great sums and just this week both Delta and American Airlines said they will now refuse to transport game trophies on their aircraft.

While some, like Jimmy Kimmel, have spoken out against the murder of the lion, others have taken their tributes a step further. Indeed, we’re seeing beautiful tributes to Cecil pop up all over the place, and the movement to honor this animal and all animals is warming our hearts. Here are a few of our favorites:

Ty, the toy company that dazzled our childhoods with adorable “Beanie Baby” collections, recently announced that they would be releasing a new Beanie Baby in September to commemorate Cecil the Lion. All of the stuffed animal’s profits, will be donated to the Wildlife Research Unit of University of Oxford, the group that had been studying the lion prior to his death. The company’s CEO explained: “Hopefully, this special Beanie Baby will raise awareness for animal conservation and give comfort to all saddened by the loss of Cecil.”

Aaron Blaise, an artist who (fittingly) helped animate The Lion King for Disney back in the day, decided to paint a mural to honor the cat. As if the picture alone wasn’t enough to make us cry, Blaise also included a quote from The Lion King: “Look at the stars. The Great Kings from the past look down upon us from those stars.” Blaise noted on his blog: “I am a HUGE animal lover and it drives me crazy when I see these beautiful creatures destroyed for no good reason […] hopefully [my tribute image] will make people think.”

Anyone walking by the Empire State Building over the weekend may have seen another tribute to the animal. On August 1st, the iconic building projected photos of endangered animals, including Cecil, onto its south side. Though originally meant to advertise the upcoming Discovery documentary Racing Extinction, the project decided to add a photo of Cecil to pay tribute to Zimbabwe’s famous cat.  

Other celebrities have expressed their sadness over the lion. Geri Horner AKA Ginger Spice of The Spice Girls shared a photo with Cecil back when he was a cub. “I love lions, met this cat many yrs ago. One of the most memorable moments of my life. #cecil the lion.”

  Betty White, a long-time animal rights activist, also spoke out about the incident: “You don’t want to hear some of the things I want to do to that man. It’s such a heartbreaker. You can’t even talk about it, and to see this king of the jungle and personifying it in every way, this gorgeous creature. How can somebody do that?” Perhaps the most powerful image of them all came a few days after the murder in the form of a makeshift memorial outside of the dentist’s office. Animal lovers from all around the world flocked to Minnesota to place stuffed animals and heartfelt signs outside the hunter’s office. One man, an artist named Mark Balma, made his own contribution to this silent protest by painting a giant portrait of the animal outside the dentist’s office. “People felt connected to this great creature and to have it taken away for such a senseless sport, if you want to call it that, it just seemed like this was a moment to use the image of Cecil to bring awareness to poaching, to conservation,” he explained.  

Cecil the Lion didn’t deserve to die, that much is true. We can only hope that these touching tributes will help raise awareness about wildlife conservation and big game hunting so that we may avoid more unnecessary deaths in the future.

We’re all still heartbroken about Cecil the Lion, but we just received a hopeful piece of news

Jimmy Kimmel is just as heartbroken about Cecil the Lion as we are

[Featured image via ty Store, Twitter]

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