Now, let’s be honest, up until the news of the tragic death of Cecil the lion came out, you had never heard of Cecil of Zimbabwe! Don’t be embarrassed, because, apparently you are not alone! An overwhelming majority of the Zimbabweans, more than 99% of them were totally unaware of the existence of the famous lion Cecil!
So, to briefly recap the headlines: an American dentist/sports hunter named Walter Palmer killed on July 1st, 2015 the famous lion Cecil, outside the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Apparently, he relied on its hunting guide’s expertise, for obtaining all the necessary permits, and the dentist believed that the hunt was legit and that all the rules were followed. Palmer also said in a statement that he “had no idea” that the lion he had killed was a local celebrity of the Hwange National Park.
Before digging into the heart of the matter, which is trophy hunting being used as a tool for wildlife conservation, let’s talk a bit about Cecil, to get to know him better. As I mentioned earlier, you would have asked most people about Cecil the lion before his demise, and I am sure that the answer would have been Cecil who?
So Let Me Introduce You to Cecil the Lion!
Cecil was born in 2002, in Zimbabwe and named after Cecil J. Rhodes, a British entrepreneur, founder of Rhodesia, nowadays known as Zimbabwe.
Cecil was first noticed back in 2009 when with the help of his brother, they attempted to oust the leader of the pride. In the process, Cecil’s brother was killed, and Cecil was seriously injured. After his recovery, with the help of another lion, Cecil took over another pride. His partner was the lion named, Jericho. Contrary to popular beliefs, Jericho is not the brother of Cecil! They were up until very recently, both co-leader of the pride in the Hwange National Park.
Why Was Cecil, So Famous?
Cecil was the best-known lion in the Hwange National Park for a couple of reasons. First off, what stands out when looking at Cecil is its beautiful dark mane. Secondly, Cecil was not afraid of the cameras and didn’t mind posing for the tourists! As a matter of fact, Cecil was, by far the most photographed of all the animals of the Hwange National Park!
Moreover, Cecil was an important source of revenues for the Zimbabwe tourism industry, since many tourists were going on a safari vacation to the Hwange National Park for the sole purpose of catching a glimpse of the famous big cat!
Furthermore, Cecil was part of a study conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University. The researchers were monitoring Cecil’s movements.
The lion population is now estimated to be around 25,000 to 35,000. Because of this, the Lions are now on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species and listed as vulnerable.
Now, why was Cecil killed? Well, the answer is Trophy Hunting.
What Is Trophy Hunting?
Trophy hunting is the legal version of hunting wild animals for their body parts, such as the head, the tusks, and the skin, which will be displayed as trophies. Whereas, poaching refers to the illegal hunting of wild animals to obtain the same trophies.
11 countries in Africa have allowed trophy hunting on their territories, among them: Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Most of the trophy hunters come from the USA. In fact, about 65% of all the hunting trophies are exported to the USA and include:
- Lions: 600.
- Elephants: 640.
- Leopards: 800.
Trophy hunting is a lucrative business. In South Africa alone, it is estimated to be worth around 675 million! Moreover, for many African countries, permit fees are the prime source of revenues that help support wildlife conservation efforts.
Is Trophy Hunting the Answer for Wildlife Conservation?
First off, why some African countries are allowing trophy hunting within their territories? Well, one argument often heard, is that it is a source of income for wildlife conservation.
The permit fees are supposedly used to educate the population about the benefits of wildlife conservation, as well as financial incentives for the landowner to keep their lands for conservation instead of selling it for urban developments and agricultural purposes.
As a result, many trophy hunters out there will tell you that they are contributing to the protection of the wildlife! Also, even some conservationists admit that without the revenues generated by trophy hunting, it would be impossible to implement programs to help prevent loss of habitat and educate the population about the importance of preserving the wildlife!
However, others argue that the money emanating from trophy hunting has been used to pay corrupt government officials as well as some outfitters, and not for the intended purpose of wildlife conservation!
Now, the question becomes:
What Are the Alternatives?
Besides trophy hunting, are there other ways to get the money needed for wildlife conservation? The answer is: YES!
There are a few options: tourism and donations to organizations such as the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), where the primary purpose of the Foundation, is preserving wildlife. However, let’s face it, the money raised by tourism is invested elsewhere, and the donations made to the AWF do not even come close to the revenues generated by trophy hunting!
Now, some of you might think, that it is a lost cause, that there is nothing that we can do about it, trophy hunting is the only efficient way to raise money for wildlife conservation, except that you are wrong!
In light of the recent events, the killing of Cecil the lion, there has been an uproar in the social media condemning the death of Cecil. Now, instead of just ranting on social media about trophy hunting as being odious, why don’t you do something constructive about it!
The AWF has put in place a fund following the death of Cecil, the lion.
If there is more money coming from donations or other sources, the African countries will not be forced to rely on trophy hunting for their wildlife conservation efforts!
Another Problem: Poaching!
As I mentioned earlier, poaching is defined as the illegal hunting of wild animals to obtain body parts that are sold on the illicit trade market.
Furthermore, poaching is a huge industry that mainly exists because of greed! Moreover, I am not only talking about the poachers’ greed looking to make a living, but also the consumers! Yes, there are people out there buying these products, and the high demand for such products is why poaching continues to exist! Additional contributing factors to poaching include the lack of laws or their reinforcement to counteract poaching.
Let’s take as an example: the rhinoceros, an endangered species. The organization Save the Rhino reported that about 1,200 rhinoceros were killed in South Africa in 2014 as a result of poaching.
Why? Because of the high demand for their horns! In many Asian countries, it is believed that the rhinoceros horns have medicinal properties, which is utterly false! There are no scientific proofs to support this claim! Nevertheless, there is on the black market a high demand for rhino horns and people are willing to pay the price to get these horns! So the poachers are more than happy to supply the horns!
Don’t put your heads in the sand! Many of you out there who are condemning poaching practices are, at the same time, the buyers of products derived from poaching!
My Final Thoughts
Well, the death of Cecil the lion was tragic. I do not believe for a second that the so-called professional hunting guides were all unaware that it was Cecil! Moreover, they chased him out the Hwange National Park, on a privately owned land and killed him! Furthermore, they want us to believe that they had no idea that what they were doing was illegal! Hopefully, the investigation will shed some light on what happened that day.
In the meantime, I hope that the international outrage brought up by the killing of Cecil will be put to good use. For instance, by looking for other ways apart from trophy hunting to finance the protection of endangered species as well as wildlife in general.
If you are looking to make a difference and you want to make a contribution to help, so that Cecil’s death would not have been in vain, click here.
Now I am sure that you must have an opinion that you are not indifferent to what happened to Cecil, or have thoughts about trophy hunting, poaching or wildlife conservation. I would love to hear what you have to say, so please leave a comment below and lets the discussion begins!