Cecil of Zimbabwe, an Unknown Celebrity!

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 his 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, and 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 a 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 in the Hwange National Park!

Moreover, Cecil was an important source of revenue 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 them 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 the loss of habitat and educate the population about the importance of preserving 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 to preserve 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!

Cecil of zimbabwe — cecil the lion at hwange national park in 2010.
Daughter#3, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In light of the recent events, the killing of Cecil the lion, there has been an uproar on 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.

An Example:

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 of the Hwange National Park, on 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 let the discussion begins!

Photo of author

Sonia Zannoni

My name is Sonia, a traveler enthusiast and the CEO of Wildlife Safari Adventures. My goal with Wildlife Safari Adventures is to provide insightful information to help you better plan your African travels. Are you ready to uncover the many facets of the Dark Continent?

10 thoughts on “Cecil of Zimbabwe, an Unknown Celebrity!”

  1. Hi Sonia,
    I contribute when I can to different organizations for the preservation of our most endangered species. These are wonderful organizations that try to help maintain what we have remaining. Unfortunately, there are those out there who would rather spend the money to hunt for their own pleasure, rather than try to use it for the future of these magnificent creatures. I find this so disturbing. This is a wonderful article, and I thank you for sharing.


    • If more people like you contribute to wildlife conservation efforts through donations, many African countries would not have to rely so heavily on trophy hunting as a source of revenue for wildlife conservation.

      Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. Hi Sonia,
    I do contribute to two charities for the amount of £10 each month. I wish that by doing so, this will help in the fight against poaching and stop the trophy hunting of any animals.

    Kind regards,

    • If more people were making donations to help finance conservation programs, many African governments would not resort to trophy hunting in order to save the wildlife from extinction!

  3. Hi Sonia

    I still can’t believe that these things go on in this day and age, when we are all ‘apparently’ better educated about animal welfare and the senseless killing of these animals.

    What an absolute load of rubbish that they had no idea what they were doing and what lion it was. In fact, the mere fact that they were there killing any lions, let alone Cecil, should be enough to cause outrage.

    I am so disappointed that it is hidden under the guise of wildlife conservation….what an absolute joke! 675 million dollars….what is wrong with these people? How can they possibly justify that what they are doing is right?

    Thank you for writing about this, and bringing it to my awareness.

    Best Regards

    • I also have a tough time believing that no one had no idea they were chasing Cecil the lion, the emblem and primary source of revenue for the Hwange National Park! I hope they find Walter Palmer and are held accountable for what he did, which wasn’t trophy hunting but poaching!

      • Hi Sonia

        I do believe that people’s bad behaviour does indeed catch up with them somewhere….karma….or whatever else it is named for the occasion.

        This too will happen for Walter Palmer also.


  4. To me, it’s contradictory and a bit ironic that the money from trophy hunting would go to wildlife conservation. Haha. Or am I off base? How exactly does the killing of animals in the wild contribute to conservation? Yes, it’s “generates” revenue, but the concept is flawed.

    Upon first hearing about Cecil, I was incredibly saddened. It kind of just leaves a hole in my heart, as mushy and cliche as that is. I used to love watching Planet Earth, and kind of formed a strange “bond” with these animals through watching them live and dwell in their habitat.

    Anyhow, $25 donated!

    Thanks for the well-written article..


    • You’re right, it’s strange that in order to preserve wildlife, you have to kill a few animals for the greater good!

      The killing of lions or elephants that are endangered species makes no sense because you are reducing their population and at the same time with the money generated by the permit fees, try to save them from extinction!.. I don’t see the logic either!

      The African countries should implement a tax on tourism and used that tax instead of trophy hunting to finance wildlife conservation!

      Thanks for your donation.


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