Cecil the Lion: What Happened When Beloved Lion Was Killed

As Walter Palmer stays out of the public eye, other big game hunters claim this sort of hunting helps conservation.
7:26 | 08/15/15

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Transcript for Cecil the Lion: What Happened When Beloved Lion Was Killed
There is renewed uproar tonight over that hunter who killed Cecil the lion. American dentist Walter palmer remains the target of a rising tide of global anger. And now new scrutiny. Tonight investigators in Zimbabwe insist palmer did not have a legal hunting permit. ABC news has also obtained photos showing an illegal kill that palmer made right here at home. Here is ABC's Ryan smith. Reporter: Riding across Zimbabwe Savannah this week it looks much as it ever did. But the reverberations of the killing of beloved lion Cecil by dentist Walter palmer can be felt around the globe. Here in America, photos first obtained by ABC news of palmer back when he got in hot water for killing another animal. In 2006, he was hunting black bear in northern Wisconsin here, had a permit to kill a bear in one county. Trouble is palmer actually shot the bear in another county 40 miles away. They agreed they would lie about it. Reporter: U.s. Attorney John body got involved when palmer took the illegal kill across state lines back to Minnesota. He was offering to pay, it turns out about $20,000 to keep the others who were in the hunt to have them lie. So that is a fairly aggressive cover-up. Reporter: But his friend didn't take the bait. Palmer eventually pled guilty to a felony charge. Paid nearly $3,000 in fines, and was sentenced to a year probation. Nine years later, palmer is encountering a beast of a different kind. It began in early July. Palmer flew across the world, eager to bag another big kill. So he traveled here to the place Cecil called home. Zimbabwe. We arrive at the hwange national park. A vast preserve the size of Connecticut where Cecil lived. Palmer ventured into the country, called by the thrill of the big kill. Palmer allegedly pays $55,000 to bag a lion. Money that was supposed to cover a hunting permit, payment to the property owner where the hunt was to take place, and for a guide. Palmer has also repeatly insisted he thought his expedition was totally legal and properly handled. Using a method called baiting, palmer and his guide dragged an elephant carcass behind their truck to lure Cecil from hwange to a private farm. The tracks are the difference between life and death for this animal. On this side you have a wildlife preserve where he can roam free. Take one, two steps on this side. You are on private property. It was there on that farm palmer shot Cecil and came back the next morning to finish him off. Brent staplecamp, a lion researcher with oxford, university, fitted Cecil with a tracking collar in 2008 and has studied his movements ever since. You have brought this animal to you, delivered to you look a pizza. His lawyer insists nobody knew the slain lion was Cecil. Mr. Palmer didn't know he was shooting this famous lion. Reporter: Palmer has written I have no idea that the lion I took was a known local favorite, was collared and part of a study. But authorities have a different version of events. For starters, they say nobody got permits. There was no permit. So this is tantamount to poaching. And now, staplecamp shares with us what he believes is key to the case. That gps data from Cecil's collar. Data which he says points to a cover-up. We get the impression someone is trying to fool us. The tracker marks Cecil's position with a dt eveot every two hours. The dots are tightly grouped. Afterward they're spread out. They're moving it around. Looks like the lion is alive. Now perhaps the second thought, they move it one last time. And destroy it in the hope that we can't track it. But we know someone is trying to in a sense fool with the crime scene. Absolutely. You certainly won't get this movement to there and back and there and then there. That's man. Not an animal doing that. Reporter: In a published report, he says that when he and palmer found Cecil's tracking collar they were shocked. Panicking they removed the collar, leaving it in a tree, and later contacted authorities. Do you believe that? No, absolutely not. I work hand in hand with the authorities. No such contact was made. Nothing. Reporter: Back in Minnesota, Dr. Palmer rrnz er returns to his home. The world is outraged over Cecil's death. This is a compound bow. Reporter: Rebecca Francis knows the predicament all too well and told her story to colleague Deborah Roberts. Here is a good night one. You better pray I dent ever run into you. I will kill you, and cut your head off and mount your f-ing head on the wall. I hope you die soon. This spring Francis had a target on her back after this memorable photo from her web page was tweeted out by Ricky Gervais. What must have happened to your life to make you want to kill a beautiful animal and then lie next to it smiling? Her life forever altered. Even though her hunt was completely legal. People saw it vile that you could lie next to the slain, undignified animal that it was dead. It wasn't disrespect. It was to remember this experience. Oh, my gosh. Look at him. When it comes to hunting and the shots and the celebration, do you think people don't get it, don't get what your world is all about? I think that people are raised in different cultures. And people that were raised in an area like this, it's part of their life. What the heck are we looking at here? We have buffaloburgers, Buffalo roasts, Buffalo steaks, cougar meat. You can's the cougar? Absolutely it is good. Some hunters are about feeding their families. And all of them have a love of outdoors and support conservation. The money that we put into hunting these animals goes directly back into conservation. Awe bought she says if palmer poached he should pay. Reporter: But with all the vitriol to palmer around the world, to this zimbabwean native. It feels misplaced. He would appreciate it if westerners pay as much attention to Zimbabwe's people as they do to Zimbabwe lions. We have these, use that do exist already that we are not even talking about. Hunger. People dying of aid. All of a sudden one lion dies then the whole world blows up. Reporter: There are those who believe Cecil's death could bring about greater change. Earlier this month, Cecil's face was projected onto New York's empire state building. And for a moment, even in this concrete jungle, he was still king. Brought a lot of attention to our work and to Zimbabwe and I think that's his legacy. Reporter: For "Nightline," Ryan smith in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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