You may already have learnt of the tragic death of Cecil the Lion. If you haven’t, then you probably haven’t been paying attention to the news lately. However, this should give no one cause for self-flagellation; after all, the stress and hassles of workaday life these days are just too demanding, too cripplingly exacting to permit such a leisure as reading the papers or sitting in front of your television for the latest news, however therapeutic such activities turn out to be ultimately.
In as few words as it takes to narrate, here, then, is the sad story of Cecil the Lion.
Cecil was a 13-year-old male cat living in a Zimbabwean national park. Sporting a massive mane and fitted with a GPS collar which allowed him to be tracked and studied by conservationists attached to Oxford University, Cecil roamed and reigned freely as head of a pride of lions comprising about 20 other members. According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia of information, the London-based The Guardian termed him “one of Africa’s most famous lions.” Cecil was assisted in taking over that pride years ago by his brother who was not lucky enough to survive the bruising fight that led to the defeat of the original pride. So, starting from scratch, Cecil collaborated with his inherited female partners and periodically made and raised babies, including five very recent cubs. Cecil grew and protected the pride. The pride was happy. And so were their conservationist friends who continued to follow him and his family scrupulously.
Now nearly 9,000 miles away in Minnesota, USA, a man named Walter James Palmer had been casting evil, acquisitive eyes at Cecil. Palmer, 55, earns a living fixing bad teeth, and quite successfully, too. He has two homes, one in Eden Prairie, Minneapolis, the other on Marco Island, Florida, and each worth well over a million dollars. But he also moonlights as a trophy hunter with special interest in African big game. From lion to rhinoceros to elephant to leopard, whole menagerie of Africa’s indigenous animals had met their end at his hands. Reports further have it that Palmer’s two homes and dental office are “crammed with stuffed heads and mementos” from his hunting trips. But Palmer is not alone. He’s just one of so many bounty hunters from America who often fly thousands of miles down to Africa to raid and deplete its wildlife.
Being someone who has lots and lots of money to throw around, Palmer packed his bags, took his bow and a quiver full of arrows, and flew down to Zimbabwe where he paid out $50,000.00 to two men, Honest Ndlovu, who owns a game park, and Theo Bronkhorst, a local hunter. Clearly aware that they could not touch Cecil in his safe, protective environment at the Hwange National Park, the trio then lured him with meats to Ndlovu’s game park where Palmer shot Cecil with a bow and arrow on July 1, wounding him severely. Palmer tracked and finished Cecil off two days later with a rifle. Palmer believes in torturing his targets with arrows before eventually ending their lives with rifle shots.
Joined by his local sidekick, Palmer struck a pose with Cecil in front of the camera, after which he divested Africa’s most treasured Lion of his GPS collar, beheaded and then skinned him. In the picture, you see both men smiling as they savored their conquest, their victory. Only those knowledgeable about the infinite variety of the human mind can readily figure out what kind of creatures are such that take unbridled sadistic pleasure in so revolting an act of cruelty. The internet is awash with pictures which Palmer and many of his tribe had taken in the past after scoring major kills.
In an essay for Time magazine tilted “Africa” many years ago, Lance Morrow once wrote: “Africa has its blinding clarities and its shadows. The clarities proclaim something primal, the first days of life. The shadows lie at the other extreme of time, in the premonition of last days, of extinction. Now you see the animals. Soon, perhaps, you won’t.” According to experts, of the roughly 200,000 lions that once existed in the wild of Africa thirty years ago, only about 30,000 of them remain today. 24 of those are said to be in Nigeria, while Ghana, Ivory Coast and Togo no longer have any left.
Outraged by Palmer’s act of horror, the whole world is kicking and punching in tearful protest. From the Cape to the Cairo to Tampa and to New York; from London to Paris to Tokyo, and from across the cities and towns and villages of the world, cries are growing daily for one word: justice. By just that act of infamy, Palmer has managed to transform himself from a somewhat anonymous Minnesota dentist to an instant object of global execration.
Apparently shocked by the tsunami of universal anger, Palmer has since gone into hiding from where he has issued a few inarticulate gibberish he calls apologies. The Zimbabwean government has requested his extradition and that of another poacher, a Pennsylvania-based doctor named Jan Casimir Seski, who is now suspected of killing a lion back in April. The American government should smoke Palmer out of wherever he is hiding and hand him over for prosecution.
Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the US House of Representatives, tweeted last week that Palmer ought to go to jail for what he did. I agree. And for all his past slayings also, I would add.
As for the two Trojan Horses in Zimbabwe, they should be taught an enduring lesson for future traitors to learn from. These Judases should not only be dispossessed of their 30 pieces of silver each, they should spend close to the rest of their lives in jail breaking rocks. African countries, supported by the United Nations, should enact laws banning trophy hunting on the continent.
All foreign tourists coming in to enjoy sightseeing in the African wild should be thoroughly screened to ensure that they are not carrying guns or deadly weapons that could be used to poach animals. We have had enough of people coming to Africa to deplete and denude it of its flora and fauna. If they’re unable to give up such mindless hobbies, then they should call me. I do have several seductive suggestions for them. One such is a trip to the Florida Everglades now overly populated by exotic pythons stalking and decimating indigenous Florida wildlife. The rewards for finding and killing those pythons are truly huge. How about that?
As a major fallout from the illegal slaying of Cecil, Delta United and American Airlines have announced they will no longer be shipping big-game trophies. This is noteworthy even though it is coming too late. And I think that the international media deserves a lot of commendation for lending such a strident voice to the cri de coeur which the senseless killing of Cecil is still generating.