The death of Cecil, a prized African lion, is drawing sympathy and anger from around the world after a Minnesota dentist, whom the Zimbabwe government asserts, killed the protected animal on a guided hunt. The Government announced it’s seeking extradition of dentist Walter Palmer, and at the same time the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it's investigating the circumstances surrounding Cecil's death. Animal lovers have sparked protests outside Palmer's Minneapolis dentist's office, however, Palmer is no where to be found.

On Friday, Zimbabwe filed papers to extradite Palmer, who reportedly paid $54,000 to hunt the lion, who was being studied, as part of a research program.

Zimbabwe officials say Cecil, who was well known for his black mane, was lured out of a national park with meat, and shot with a bow and arrow. Officials say the animal walked around wounded until Palmer allegedly shot it with a gun some 40-hours later.

Dr. Lucy Spelman is veterinarian board-certified in zoological medicine — one of 156 in the world. She also lectures at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she teaches about the connection between creative art and the conservation of nearly extinct animals. She spoke with WGBH Morning Edition host Bob Seay and says Cecil’s death illuminates how easy it is to harm nature instead of help it.

“We can spend $50,000 for a trophy, but we have trouble raising $50,000 to invest in studies like the one that was going on to support him.”

However, Spelman sees Palmer’s actions were likely targeted and not fueled by ignorance.

“It’s hard for me to understand that someone could plan an event like that and not have learned everything there is to know about the African lion,” Spelman says, “There are only so many African lions left on earth… maybe 30,000 lions so he probably knew who his target was going to be.”

As a Zoologist, Spelman has received the unique opportunity to interact with endangered species such as giant pandas in China, mountain gorillas in Rwanda, and Elephants in Burma.

Spelman says, “part of the challenge with the promotion of conservation is it can be difficult to assist people in connecting with nature, when one has never gone beyond a city.”

“I think we see nature as an object as something that’s nice to have, but maybe not essential to our daily lives. And so she says, “ Cecil was a beloved individual and his death makes us realize that every creature is a being, is a living animal that actually depends on humans for its survival. I think it's a transforming moment that I hope we can capture because all animals need our help, it’s not just this one lion.”

According to Spelman, one of the ways that people can help the conservation of endangered species is through research. Through her work at RISD, she is able to connect scientists to artist to come up with creative ways of making scientific issues relevant to the average person.

“Art is a wonderful way to connect us to things on an emotional level and sometimes a subconscious level,” Spelman says, “Sometimes it’s the science of why we should take care of nature, but it’s also the value of nature in animals specifically.”

However, Cecil may not have died in vain, Spelman says that as tragic as this story is, it could promote studies that look at endangered animals such as Cecil in a positive way, versus viewing him as a trophy.

“The health of everything is connected and everything we do on a daily basis has a ripple effect. So if we’re taking better care of what’s right around us, then we’re actually helping lions, tigers and bears in other places. I hope we’re motivated to do more to learn, to celebrate nature and also to take action.”

To listen to the full interview with WGBH’s Morning Edition host, Bob Seay, click on the audio file above.