Cecil the lion

My original intention was to post a follow-up post about moving today, but I can't not say something about this.

As many of you know, Seth and I (and his family) were in Hwange National Park during the first week of July. It is possible that we were actually in Hwange during the time that Cecil was killed, or at least during the time that Dr. Palmer and his hosts were trying to lure him out of the park. The story surrounding Cecil has been particularly painful for us, and it has been difficult for me to read stories about him since, in a way, it is somewhat personal for us.

On one of our last days in Hwange, we saw a pride of lions. It was the only time during our trip that we actually saw lions, and the group we saw was composed of adult females and "subadult" (teenaged) cubs. Our guide told us during our stay that there was a very famous male lion (likely Cecil) that hadn't been seen in a few weeks, and that the guides all feared that he had been poached. (I have since confirmed with our guide that this pride is, in fact, Cecil's former pride. I spoke with him briefly today, and they are understandably heartbroken over the loss of Cecil, whom they used to see nearly every day in the bush.)




An adult female lion heading off on a hunt
            
The issue of poaching in Zimbabwe is a pretty huge problem. Many species that are endangered are still hunted for their skins, furs, ivory, or horns, or, in Cecil's case, simply for the thrill of the kill. How drawing a lion out of a national park with raw meat and then killing him from afar gives a man a thrill, I couldn't tell you. For example - we were not able to see rhino on our visit to Zimbabwe, and our guide explained that the poaching of rhino had gotten so bad in Zimbabwe that the remaining few surviving rhino had been transported to Botswana, where poaching laws are much more strict. (They have a shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach to poachers.)

Because a man with too much money, too little excitement in his life and too little empathy for other living things chose to kill Cecil, a national icon and a crucial part of Hwange's delicate ecosystem has been removed. Male lions, through poaching, are less prevalent than female lions. They are solitary by nature, and thus easier to kill. Their iconic manes also make them a target for the heartless with tens of thousands of dollars burning a hole in their pockets. The killing of adult male lions like Cecil threatens the ability of lions to reproduce, and continues to threaten an already dwindling species.




A lion cub following his mother on a hunt

Obviously, poaching is an issue of corruption. Americans, in particular, that have a vast amount of wealth and nothing to do with it are willing to spend sums of money that many Zimbabweans have never seen before. It is easy to exploit the needs of the poor in countries like Zimbabwe in order to pursue a glamorous kill. This is not culling - lions do not need to be culled. They were doing nothing wrong, and they are far from overpopulated. They do not need to be captured and fenced in order to protect them - the government of Zimbabwe needs to put strict laws in place regarding the punishment and extradition of anyone caught poaching animals in an environment that is not strictly regulated for culling purposes. They have a right to live in their natural habitat without the threat of poaching.

For those of you whose argument is that the $55,000 Dr. Palmer gave to that hunting company goes directly to conservation efforts, you're wrong. About 3% of any fees paid by poachers actually gets used by the parks. "The vast majority of their expenditure does not accrue to local people and businesses, but to firms, government agencies and individuals located internationally or in national capitals. As the quote above demonstrates, expenditure accruing to government agencies rarely reaches local communities due to corruption and other spending requirements."*

I've seen a lot of blowback on social media about the issue of the "Black Lives Matter" movement versus the killing of Cecil the lion. Many people are upset that the killing of one lion is garnering international media attention, while the killing of black men in particular in the United States does not garner the same coverage. Here is my opinion: The seriousness of this issue does not lessen the seriousness of another issue. To say that I should care less about poaching and more about the killing of black men in the United States is 1) to assume to don't care about the Black Lives Matter movement and 2) to lessen and degrade the seriousness of an issue like poaching. I can be outraged about both. That is a thing, that is possible, and I - and many others outraged by Cecil's death - do care about the unjust treatment of black people in the US. It's okay for people to care about more than one very serious issue.

I'm really heartbroken over the killing of Cecil. I hope that Dr. Palmer is extradited, fined and jailed. He is a coward and a heartless man, and losing his practice is not enough of a punishment. I am glad this has drawn international media attention to the issue of poaching, and hopefully will encourage the government of Zimbabwe to crack down on poaching in their national parks.

*http://www.ifaw.org/sites/default/files/Ecolarge-2013-200m-question.pdf

10 comments:

  1. The excruciating torture that Cecil must have faced at the hands of that despicable man must have been unbearable. What gives that bourgeois man the right to be self-entitled and use his wealth to murder a protected mammal who is loved by animal enthusiasts worldwide? It makes me livid that wealth automatically opens up doors that should never be entered. RIP Cecil he will get what is coming for him!

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    1. It looks like the U.S. will probably achieve extradition. It will definitely be something I continue to follow on the news.

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  2. What a beautiful and sad blog - thank you for the share. I've been fortunate enough to visit Zambia and Zimbabwe and have safaried in both, as well as in Sri Lanka. It is fascinating to observe wild life at a safe distance, feeling the power of God's creatures and witnessing them going about their daily lives. On safari you are hunting in a sense, yet with the right guides you do this in a safe and respectful way that benefits man and animal, where you watch and learn - that is enough hunting for me. I've never seen big cats in the wild - how wonderful that you got this opportunity and I look forward to the day I do too. I pray that Cecil's death heightens awareness of such stupid and cruel acts and means an end to this selfish barbaranism.

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    1. The safari camp we stayed at emphasized to us the importance of not disrupting the animals as much as possible and respecting them in their natural habitat. They were strongly focused on ecological conservation and protecting the ecosystems where they operate. I'm getting ready to write a post about their company this week, I'm excited to showcase their love and respect for Africa in contrast to poachers and criminals like Dr. Palmer that seek to exploit it.

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  3. What a moving post. I hate hunting for sport and trophies, and I also hope that this over-entitled American will be brought to justice. I actually think that there is something that can be seen in the attention that this story has received that is very relevant to the issues about human tragedies that do not receive a lot of press. That is the personalisation. Yes, many awful things that happen to people are largely ignored (Darfur?) and, actually, so are many cruel things being done to animals. They are ignored because they are faceless and anonymous statistics, and people don't connect well to that. People do connect to specific individuals with names, stories and faces. Cecil has a name and he had a known identity, so people have felt more emotionally invested in his story. The attention this has received, I think, is actually an important illustration of one reason why certain events capture the media and public more than others. I agree with you that caring about this and considering it important does not detract from the importance of other things that happen in the world.

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    1. I really appreciate your support. I was nervous to address that aspect of this particular news coverage, but I felt it was important to address. I hope the amount of media attention this is getting helps to bring Dr. Palmer to justice and encourages the government of Zimbabwe to crack down on poaching.

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  4. This post was so incredibly moving. I am so saddened by what happened to Cecil - hunting for sport, of any animal whatsoever, absolutely sickens me. I don;t understand how someone can take pleasure out of taking the life of another living creature, just because they can. It's completely disturbing.

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    1. I completely agree with you. My husband and his extended family were discussing it tonight and I can hardly deal with talking about it. It really breaks my heart and has drawn me much closer to the cause. It's definitely something I would get involved with. So sad.

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  5. Killing animals for sport is so pointless and down right cruel. Surely hope this man gets what's coming to him and more! Thanks so much for sharing such an informative and touching post.

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    1. It will definitely be an interesting story to follow in the news. I'm hoping for increased awareness for the issue of poaching, in general. The whole situation really makes me sad.

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