An iconic lion named Cecil was recently killed by unscrupulous “hunters” in Zimbabwe, sparking outrage from non-hunters and hunters alike.
A wealthy “hunter” from Spain allegedly paid around $55,000 for the opportunity to kill a well-known lion – named Cecil – from the Zimbabwe Hwange National Park earlier this month.
If the reported allegations concerning the killing of the lion prove true, we should clarify that the “hunter” involved is not, in fact, a hunter in the legitimate and ethical sense of the word that most hunters ascribe to. Rather, he is a poacher.
Certain details of the story are unclear, as various reports differ in a number of details. One report alleges that a Spaniard contracted with a safari operator to kill the famous lion, while another says that he bribed park rangers to assist in the deed.
Some accounts also say the lion was initially shot with bow and arrow, while others indicate that a crossbow was used.
The lion was lured from the confines of the park in order that it might be killed “legally” off the protected area of the reserve. It was wounded by arrow or crossbow bolt, and was apparently tracked for some 40 hours, before finally being dispatched with a rifle. The animal’s head and hide were then taken.
Two individuals who assisted the poacher have reportedly been arrested, although authorities are still searching for the main actor, the Spaniard who pulled the trigger.
Cecil was considered the star attraction of the Hwange National Park, with the lion’s image being photographed countless times throughout its 13-year life. The lion had also been fitted with a GPS tracking collar, allowing biologists to track its movements in a study for Oxford University.
The Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association (ZPHGA) confirmed the safari operator involved in the killing was one it its members. They have indefinitely suspended the operator.
The ZPHGA issued a statement saying,
Of course the killing of the lion has reignited anti-hunter sentiments, as anti-hunting groups are filling social media with the usual and predictable epithets and vitriol aimed at hunting and hunters in general.
Some media reports seem to be assisting in the unfair, broad-brush association of the poaching of the lion with ethical and legal hunting.
TIME magazine, for example, described the lion as being “murdered in an especially brutal manner,” and CNN concluded their report by writing, “Cecil the lion is survived by about six lionesses with whom he mated regularly and approximately 24 cubs.”
While the manner in which this lion was targeted and killed, as well as the apparent motivation behind the killing—strictly as an ego-driven trophy kill—is indeed a despicable and heinous act, such characterizations of an animal being “murdered” or “survived by” unfortunately and intentionally attempt to anthropomorphize wild animals into foolish Disney-like caricatures far removed from their true nature.
Incidents like this are roundly disdained and condemned by all ethical and legal hunters. Nevertheless, we will all unfortunately be painted with the same brush by the anti-hunting crowd and an ignorant and intentionally biased media.
It is up to us to continually be vocal and clear in our condemnation of poaching and such acts as the unethical and possibly illegal killing of this lion.
As hunters, we must never tire of declaring that such acts are at odds with the overwhelming majority of hunters and the hunting lifestyle, which promotes, funds and ensures wildlife conservation.