When I wrote about the lion population of Africa declining from 200,000 to 30,000 over the course of 20 years, not one person commented, though this blog receives 3,000 to 4,000 visitors a day.A lion by the name of "Cecil" was illegally killed by a Minnesota slob hunter.
The Internet is now expressing outrage, but what has actually devastated lions in Africa is not white hunters, but silence in the face of systematic poisoning by local natives.
A few facts:
- Prior to 1928, Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe was a desert largely devoid of wildlife as it had no surface water. Beginning in the late 1920s and continuing through to the 1940s and on to today, a series of bore wells were put in, first by white hunters and later by the government of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), to bring water to ponds and pans (no-drain areas of the park). As a result, Hwange now has over 30,000 elephants (more than it should), as well as between 400 and 500 lions, and the requisite zebra, gazelle, white rhino, black rhino, cheetah, giraffes, buffalo, wildebeest, hippo, and leopard, as well as over 400 kinds of birds. In 1949, Hwange was declared a National Park and it now comprises 1.4 million hectares (5,405 square miles). To put it another way, Hwange is about the size of Switzerland.
- The lion population of Africa has not been devastated by sport hunting, but by systematic poisoning of lions by local people using American-made ant poison (Furadan) made by FMC. When I wrote about the lion population of Africa declining from 200,000 to 30,000 over the course of 20 years, not one person commented on the problem even though this blog receives 3,000 to 4,000 visitors a day.
- Fees paid by tourist hunters support public lands protection, maintenance and management all over the world, and that is as true in Africa as it is in the United States. Managed hunts are not only an income-producer, they are also a way of reducing overpopulation, when it exists, and removing problem animals in conflict with local people. Africa has not gone the way of New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, which decided to kill off all of its wolves and lions. Instead, is is managing them within a massive park system. Is this park system perfectly managed? No, but it is generally improving with better electronic communication equipment, improved ground transportation, better salaries, better training, and more cross-border cooperation.
- Cecil the lion lived so long (13 years), and became so habituated to people, that he was given a name, which is the only reason most people care about him or know about him. The day he was killed, Cecil was wearing a locator collar which the professional hunter's guides unsuccessfully tried to destroy when they realized he was wearing it. It was the locator collar than led researchers to the skinned and headless corpse of the lion. When the Minnesota hunter found out the lion was wearing a locator collar, he apparently went ballistic on his guide. He had been out to shoot a leopard, not lion, and had only shot the lion because he was urged to do so by the professional hunter.
- The Minnesota hunter who shot Cecil may not have done anything illegal, though there are a LOT of reasons to ask questions, as he has had serious hunting violations in the U.S. in the past. It is LEGAL to bait lions in Zimbabwe, to shoot them with a bow and arrow from a blind, to kill them outside a national park in a private hunting area, and to kill collared lions. That said, this hunt was still illegal as the guides, who had been paid $50,000 dollars, did not have the proper license to shoot a lion, and they knew that. The guides were shooting over bait which, while common and legal in Zimbabwe, is illegal in most U.S. states, and immoral everywhere. The lion was shot with a crossbow, not an archery bow, and was shot so badly that it dragged off into the bush for 40 hours before it was successfully tracked down and shot with a gun. This was a horrible death at the hands of a slob hunter who was operating outside the law as he had in the past. Zimbabwe has already hauled in the hunter's guides, charged both of them, and released them pending trial. The professional hunter will likely abscond to South Africa or elsewhere. The Minnesota dentist may face charges in the U.S. or in Zimbabwe, but he is unlikely to face anything more than a massive legal bill and impressive fines. Though lions are critically threatened in Africa, their plight has not yet risen to "endangered," and they are not protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
- Dr. Walter J. Palmer, the Bloomington, Minnesota dentist who shot Cecil the lion, is a member of the notorious "Safari Club International," which is one of the most crime-plagued group of rich slob hunters on the planet. Members routinely "bag" trophy animals on canned hunts. These animals are often old zoo animals shot in fenced fields called "private game preserves" even when they are quite tiny. This is the worst of hunting, not the best, and the fact that Dr. Palmer is a member of Safari Club International, and has previous hunting violations in the U.S., says quite a lot. As Ted Williams once noted in Audubon magazine: "Last time I looked the record book of Safari Club International (the biggest promoter of canned hunts) contained 17 entries for 'introduced [from Europe] North American wild boar,' all 17 from a game preserve in Nova Scotia called Shangri-La, where the 'wild boars' were fed commercial hog chow and 'hunted' in enclosures that averaged 75 acres."
|Shot between fences? Almost certainly.|