Cecil was a 13-year-old male Southwest African lion who mostly lived in the Hwange National Park in Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe. He was a much beloved, major attraction at the park and was well photographed due to his beauty and ease around humans. He was being studied and tracked by the University of Oxford.
Cecil was shot by Walter Palmer, an American dentist with a sick penchant for killing wild animals. The recreational ‘big-game hunter’ has previous kills including another Lion, a Black Bear (illegally – read more here), a Rhino, a Bison and a Leopard. He had also asked to kill a ‘massive Elephant’ after killing Cecil, but he had not anticipated the furore that would erupt once his murder became known. Palmer paid £35,000 ($54,359) to hunt and kill Cecil, luring him out of the safety of the National Park where he was protected and then wounding him with an arrow from a crossbow. He tracked Cecil and 40 hours later on 1 July 2015, Cecil was killed with a rifle, decapitated and skinned. The head and pelt were to be sent to South Africa for export to the US as a ‘trophy’ for Palmer but they were instead seized by Zimbabwean police to be used as evidence. Theo Bronkhurst, the Zimbabwean guide who led the hunt has been charged with failing to prevent an illegal hunt, his trial has been postponed until 28th September 2015.
There have been calls for Palmer to be extradited to face charges in Zimbabwe. The head of US Fish and Wildlife Service, Dan Ashe, promised his agency would “go where the facts lead us” as an official investigation was opened into whether Mr Palmer broke the 1900 Lacey Act, which bars trading animals that have been illegally killed (The Independent). Palmer’s whereabouts are currently unknown but he has apparently hired private investigators to protect his safari-themed homes from animal rights activists. A Zimbabwe conservation group says it wants the head of Cecil the Lion to be mounted in a case in Hwange National Park.
Following the tragedy, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Air Lines have said they will ban hunting trophies from baggage if they are from endangered species.
Before Cecil was illegally murdered, four Lions were taken by poachers in the area. Two rhinos were poached and killed on two separate reserves in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa on 2nd August with 63 rhinos being killed in KwaZulu-Natal so far this year. One elephant is killed by poachers every 15 minutes.
As a result of Cecil’s murder and shocked celebrities speaking out against trophy hunting, the world’s attention is now fixed firmly on this disgusting and cowardly act. Also under the spotlight is Canned Hunting, where animals, mostly Lions, are bred specifically to be hunted. They are kept in enclosures and released for hunting while weeks old and, most important to trophy hunters, free of the facial scars they would likely gain in the wild.
Some supposed ‘lion sanctuaries’ are actually farming lion cubs, firstly to be used in ‘cub petting’ and then once they are older, to be used in Canned Hunting. Read more at www.cannedlion.org.
Please sign the petition to ask for new EU Legislation banning imports of lion hunting trophies.