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Cecil the Lion lives on -- as a Beanie Baby that funds wildlife conservation

Cecil the Lion lives on -- as a Beanie Baby that funds wildlife conservation
Proceeds from the Cecil the Lion Beanie Baby ($5.99, available at the end of September) will go to the U.K. conservation group that has been conducting a long-term study of the late lion's Zimbabwean pride. (Ty Inc.)

A Beanie Baby that pays homage to Cecil the Lion will help fund wildlife conservation, Oakbrook, Ill.-based Ty Inc. announced Monday.

The toymaker that kicked off a mid-'90s collecting craze with stuffed animals like Flash the Dolphin and Snort the Bull, has pledged 100% of profits from sales of the Cecil the Lion Beanie Baby to the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit of the University of Oxford, the U.K. organization that has been conducting a long-term study of Cecil's pride.

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"Hopefully, this special Beanie Baby will raise awareness for animal conservation and give comfort to all saddened by the loss of Cecil," Ty Warner, founder and chairman of Ty Inc., said in a release announcing the initiative.

In case you're wondering (we were), it doesn't appear the Cecil stuffed animal is simply a case of slapping a new name on an existing Beanie. A quick spin through the company's leonine offerings turned up nearly a dozen versions, ranging from the cartoonish Alex to the multicolor-maned Bushy, with the closest resemblance coming from Louie, a lion with the same look but a lighter-colored mane than the one Cecil's sporting.

According to a company representative, the Cecil the Lion Beanie Baby will be available at specialty retail stores by the end of September with a suggested retail price of $5.99.

Ty's benefit Beanie Baby isn't the only way to raise money and awareness in the aftermath of the Zimbabwean lion's death last month at the hands of trophy-hunting Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer.

Last week, we told you about Texas-based pet portrait artist Stephanie Conrad, who had created an eco-friendly tote bag bearing Cecil's image and pledged 30% of proceeds to the same organization the Beanie Baby is benefiting.

And artist Mark Balma, who could be seen painting an image of the animal on an oversized easel outside Palmer's dental practice last week has announced plans to sell the 65-inch-by-65-inch acrylic-on-canvas painting, with all proceeds going to the WCRU as well. (Balma is accepting offers for the painting via his website, markbalma.com, where he'll also eventually sell signed prints.)

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