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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cecil The Lionhearted

There has been a lot of talk about this recent news story coming out of the African nation of Zimbabwe, and of course, I have my own opinions on the subject.

I'd like to show you a photograph to kick off this blog.

I'd like to introduce you to Cecil the Lion.  He is - or rather, he was - one of the most gentlest lions to ever grace the earth.  At 13, he was nearing the end of his natural life span (most lions in the wild rarely see their sweet sixteen), and he had spent most of his life in Hwange National Park.  He was tracked with a GPS device embedded in a collar, and he was observed by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University.  It's a program that has been in place since the late 1990s, and the program was designed to measure the impact of sport hunting beyond the park on the lion population in Africa.

And Cecil was well loved and well respected.  He was a fan favourite of all of the tourists who visited the park, and he seemed to trust human beings very much and was gentle around them.  That's what makes Cecil's story even more tragic and senseless.

You see, Cecil the Lion is no longer with us.  He was killed a few days ago.  And the way in which he was killed is so barbaric and so inhumane that it has definitely got social media talking, and has vilified (and rightfully so) the man at the center of the controversy. 

I actually don't want to post a photo of this man because to see his face makes me nauseous.  But the man at the center of this is a dentist from Minnesota named Walter Palmer.

Now, Walter Palmer is no stranger to big game hunting.  He has gone on several hunting expeditions all over the world, and has proudly posed next to his "trophies", which include a rhino, a bear, and even another lion.  I suppose that one could compare him to Noah from Noah's Ark, only in that tale, Noah collected animals to save them from the flood.  In Palmer's case, he collected animals to display them in his home or to brag about killing them, even though in all likelihood the animals had done nothing to him.  He's even spent thousands of dollars to fuel his hobby. 

In the days leading up to Cecil's death, it is reported that Palmer paid a whopping $55,000 to shoot and kill the lion with a bow and arrow, and two men native to Zimbabwe assisted him.

Now, here's where things get sickening.  According to park rules, animals within the confines of the park can NOT be harmed in any way.  So, in order to continue his mission, Palmer and his guides lured the lion out of the park's confines with a dead animal attached to their car.  Once Cecil had ventured close enough, Palmer aimed his bow and shot an arrow into Cecil.

Here's the thing.  Cecil survived the impact.  Lions are huge animals, and one arrow typically wouldn't cause a whole lot of damage unless you knew exactly where to aim it.  Cecil quickly went into hiding, but thanks to the GPS device, Palmer and his crew knew exactly how to track him. 

FORTY hours later, they finished the doomed lion off with a gunshot, and immediately after that, the lion was decapitated and skinned, with its remains left abandoned just outside of the park.

Just picture this for a moment.  Someone PAID over fifty thousand dollars to kill this beautiful lion.  And the method of how they killed this lion and what they did to him is unspeakable horror. 

As far as I am concerned, I see no justification for this incident to have happened at all.

I am not completely against hunting in some cases.  If it is a matter of survival, that's one thing - but someone who obviously has that much money to dispose of obviously wasn't starving to death.  If the lion had been extremely wild and lunged at him, then I can justify a self-protection shooting, but this definitely wasn't the case.  And even if the killing was in self-defense, there is absolutely ZERO excuse for skinning and beheading the lion.

I still get horrified just reading the details.

Of course, with the way that the Internet is, it didn't take long for the dentist to be outed as the one who killed Cecil, and immediately people shamed him all over the world.  Many people were just as horrified that Cecil had to die in such a brutal fashion, and some were even calling for the dentist to suffer the same fate as the lion he killed.  I'll talk about that a little later.

For the record, Palmer issued an apology for what had transpired, and it read like this; (courtesy of Brian Reis' Twitter page.)

My thoughts?  Too little, too late.  The fact that Cecil the Lion was a well known attraction of the park is not really the real focus point.  The point is that he willingly broke the rules in order to kill this lion in the most brutal way possible.  Not only did he lure the lion out of its protective habitat, but they tried to destroy the GPS collar so that his body would not be found.  He is only sorry that he got caught and outed.  Now his name is completely trashed, and his dentist office is now closed - who knows how long that office will be shut down?

I definitely agree that Palmer should be held accountable for Cecil's death.  After all, what he did was reprehensible.  But I don't believe in an eye for an eye philosophy.  I don't think that would teach him anything, and it is very hypocritical to wish him the same fate that the lion suffered.

Besides, after all this is over, I think the damage done to his reputation is a just punishment. 

But it also bothers me.  Of course, we're making an example of Palmer in this case, and rightfully so.  But that's only because the Internet allowed us to identify him right away.  This probably wasn't the first time that an incident like this happened.  Who knows how many animals have died at the hands of poachers, hunters, and big game hunters who have yet to be identified?  It's a scary thought.

Cecil, you did not deserve this.  You deserved to live out the rest of your life in peace.  This was not how you were meant to go out, and I am so sorry that you had to die at the hands of a man who only saw dollar signs and bragging rights in front of his eyes, not compassion and tenderness. 

I think that to close this piece off, Jimmy Kimmel can say things a lot better than I can.

Rest in peace, Cecil the Lionhearted.

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