You’ve probably heard by now, but Cecil the lion was murdered. Don’t lie to me and say that you knew who that was before this week, I didn’t for sure. Another person I’d never heard of either, an American dentist called Walter Palmer, allegedly killed Cecil. This happened at the beginning of July, but this week the news exploded on the internet. Twitter and Facebook, and all of the news sites, were swamped with information, so if you want to you can look the now extremely famous Cecil and Walter up. Walter, a keen hunter who has bagged several different species of wild animal went to Zimbabwe expressly to shoot a lion. He paid (allegedly knowingly bribed) $50,000 to kill one of Africa’s most famous and iconic lions: Cecil was one of the main attractions at the Hwange national park. When he was found he had been decapitated and skinned. Cecil had been lured outside of the safety of the national park using bait, and then shot with a bow and arrow. A group of hunters then tracked him for forty hours before killing him with a rifle. The hunters are claiming they did not realise that Cecil was an important creature. But they certainly did not miss the GPS tag around his neck (Cecil was part of a significant scientific project run by Oxford University) and tried to destroy the tag. Now that Cecil, who was the head of the pride, is dead there will be a leadership struggle between the other male lions to see who should take over, part of that process will be when the remaining male lions kill the six lion cubs that Cecil had recently fathered in order for the bloodline to change.
When I first read this story this week it made me feel disgusted, and I know I’m not alone. But, here’s the thing, it doesn’t really matter if Cecil was a well known lion or not, that part is irrevelant. What is relevant is the ignorance, arrogance and brutality that these acts display. Hunting lions is legal in several countries in southern Africa, but groups must obtain a valid permit from authorities. The money raised from selling permits helps the conservation efforts of the species. About a century ago there were 200,000 lions but that figure has dropped to less than 30,000. The reality is that shooting lions is like shooting fish in a barrel. Lions are big lazy cats, and are not the maneaters that the movies portray them as. You’re more likely to be hurt by a frustrated lion in a zoo than be in any danger in the wild. The plain fact is that even I, if I wanted to, could take a gun and kill a lion, it doesn’t take any skill or bravery.
What does take effort, and intelligence is the development of a resistant conservation programme for lions and the other wild and endangered species across the world to be enabled to breed and live in their own natural environments without humans wanting to kill them for entertainment. Walter is not the first person to be outed for slaughtering an endangered animal, I can think of a few Spanish people who have been in the news, the previous King Juan Carlos for example. And consider this: is there any real difference between killing a lion and a cow? Perhaps we should remember to be as outraged at the factory farming industry as we are at the death of Cecil.
It is possible that Walter Palmer will be extradited to face charges of bribery, (not for killing an endangered animal) and two other people involved in the hunt have already been arrested and face lengthy jail sentences. What did this man think he was going to get out of his hunt? I haven’t read anywhere about Walter enjoying a bowl of lion soup. No, he’s got his trophy skin, and lot more than he bargained for as well. But that my friend is the law of the jungle, and perhaps this is the turning of that particular tide.
BY Vicki McLeod