My heart grew heavy when I heard that Cecil, the beloved lion that lived with his pride in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, was killed. For a moment, I thought it must have been a terrible mistake; a stray bullet or something.
But when I read Dr. Jane Goodall's statement on Wednesday (July 29th, 2015) I grew more and more outraged. Notably, she stated:
"I was shocked and outraged to hear the story of Cecil, Zimbabwe’s much loved lion. Not only is it incomprehensible to me that anyone would want to kill an endangered animal (fewer than 20,000 wild lions in Africa today) but to lure Cecil from the safety of a national park and then to shoot him with a crossbow...? I have no words to express my repugnance. He was not even killed outright, but suffered for hours before finally being shot with a bullet. And his magnificent head severed from his wounded body."
And it wasn't a few hours that Cecil suffered – it was 40 hours (almost two days bleeding and wounded by an arrow fired from a crossbow). Cecil was hunted down, shot, skinned, and beheaded.
A dentist did this to Cecil because he wanted his head as a hunting trophy to show off. To who? I can't imagine that many people are proud or happy about this sort of thing. Who's telling this dentist, "Way to go, Walter!?"
Charles Barilleaux on flickr / CC-by-2.0I wonder: how did we, as members of the human race, produce such an educated member of society with such a sick fascination? It can hardly be called a hobby, let alone a "sport."
When did killing big game become something to be proud of?
Yes, it was a dentist that killed Cecil. My sister works in dentistry. As a former healthcare worker, I simply cannot fathom how any member of the healthcare profession can find killing any living being enjoyable.
I can't imagine that any human being with a soul takes any pleasure in killing. I know it's sometimes necessary when there are encounters with wild animals, but in this case, clearly it was not.
Reuters posted a gorgeous 51-second amateur video of Cecil in 2012. As he saunters up to people in jeeps taking his photo, you can see how friendly and trusting of humans he was. (Note: Due to copyright laws, I can only provide a link to this video).
Photo taken in Langenfelde, Hamburg, Germany.
What Happened to Cecil
I read numerous reports as they came in and I tried to piece together what happened to Cecil. Here is what I discovered:
According to DailyMail's Tom Wyke, Cecil was one of the Hwange National Park's oldest lions. In fact, Cecil was 13-years-old and somewhat famous at Hwange (Zimbabwe's largest game reserve). He was "well known for his striking looks and friendly nature."
Subharnab Majumdar (Taken on September 17th, 2005) CC-by-2.0At first, some reports stated Cecil was killed on July 6th but the BBC reported, "Cecil is believed to have died on July 1st, but the carcass was not discovered until a few days later."
Then, I discovered some of the gruesome details on the website Cecilthelion.org:
Cecil was lured out of his protected area. The DailyMail report stated that these men "tied a dead animal to vehicle" and "scented an area 1/2 kilometer from the park." Apparently, this landowner allowed Cecil to be hunted on his property for a sum of money. Probably a large sum of money. Most reports state around $55,000 USD (or £35,000).
When Cecil discovered the bait (which was at night), these men blinded him with headlights from their vehicle. Cecil wasn't afraid of humans or cars, so it's unlikely he had any reason to fear these men, initially.
Dr. Walter Palmer, a Minnesota dentist, fired an arrow from his crossbow that hit Cecil. But he didn't die. While on the run, he suffered for almost two days (40 hours) bleeding from his wounds. And these cowardly humans continued to stalked him.
When these men finally caught up to Cecil, they shot, skinned, and beheaded him.
Oh and they even tried to remove the tracking collar that Cecil had been fitted with in order to destroy any evidence.
The lion pictured here is from Woburn Safari Park, Bedfordshire, UK.
The Tragic Outcome to Zimbabwe and Cecil's Family
I learned in a NationalTransparency.org post that Cecil's death will have dire consequences for Zimbabwe’s famous Hwange National Park and for Cecil's family.
In Africa Geographic, Adam Cruise reported:
"Bryan Orford, a regular visitor to the park who has filmed Cecil on numerous occasions, says Cecil was Hwange’s 'biggest tourist attraction. Not only [was his death] a natural loss, but a financial loss.'
He explained that "Zimbabwe would have earned more in just 5 days by having Cecil’s photograph taken, than being shot by someone paying a single fee with no hope of future revenue." Tourists pay about $9800 USD per day for lodging in the area.
Rob Bixby (scubabix on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic
And sadly, I learned the way nature plays out whenever a lion like Cecil is killed. Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) charity explained:
"The six cubs of Cecil will now be killed by the new male lion in the pride, in order to encourage the lionesses to mate with him. That’s how it works . . . it’s in the wild. It’s nature taking its course."
The Dentist Who Killed Cecil The Lion | msnbc
Published on July 29th, 2015 by msnbc
Where is Dr. Walter Palmer?
On July 30th, the BBC reported:
US officials have been unable to reach Dr. Walter Palmer. The good news is that they have indeed launched an investigation into the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe.
The White House confirmed it would review a public petition to extradite the American dentist once more than 100,000 people signed it. CNN's Eugene Scott confirmed in his report that as of July 30th, over 146,000 signatures were on it.
When I checked Friday, July 31st, 2015 at 7:52 pm ET, there were 188,484 on the White House petition to Extradite Minnesotan Walter James Palmer to face justice in Zimbabwe.
At the time of this publication, the whereabouts of Dr. Walter Palmer was unknown, but he is believed to have returned to the US after Cecil was killed on July 1st, 2015.
Dr. Palmer assured his patients (in a letter) that he would assist authorities in the US or in Zimbabwe with their inquiries related to Cecil. But it appears he has gone into hiding.
Well-Known Celebrities and Cat Lovers Chime In
During my research, I came across Jimmy Kimmel's emotional public plea to help us turn this tragedy into something positive. Donations can be made to the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), the group who had been tracking Cecil with a special collar.
WildCRU is the world’s top university research group and the July 31st post from David Macdonald, Director of Oxford’s WildCRU states:
"To honor and boost David's work, and the tremendous gift to wildlife conservation that has come from Jimmy Kimmel's on-air appeal, Daphne and I [American philanthropist Tom Kaplan and his wife Daphne] want to keep the momentum going.
To help David reach the tremendous target of half a million pounds, my wife and I are delighted to offer to match the next $100,000 to help achieve that wonderful goal."
Donations can be made at: Cecil the lion and WildCRU
The funds raised (as of Friday, July 31st at 8:15 pm ET): £66,967.87 or $104,617.21 USD.
I asked some well-known celebrities in my Facebook circle what their thoughts were about Cecil the lion and what we know (to date).
"What Jimmy Kimmel said," was all Paul Klusman needed to say.
Paul has been featured in the New York Times. He produces the hilarious and wildly popular YouTube videos with his cats Oscar, Ginger and Zoey (featuring TJ Wingard and Sweet William). He concluded, "Jimmy pretty much nailed it."