Last night, I sobbed as if the world were coming to an end, and indeed, for me it was. I laid in bed and closed my eyes, but my thoughts were so full of disbelief, anger, disgust, sorrow, outrage, grief, fear, and hopelessness… that I honestly believed that my head might explode. My heart pounded with the same intense emotion, and I wondered if I would die before morning from the sheer intensity of the rage and grief that flooded through every vein.
Cecil the Lion is dead.
And a photo of the man who ruthlessly and horrifically murdered this lion, grinning as if he’d just won the million dollar lottery with Cecil’s lifeless head propped up in front of him for the camera, just put a face on everything that’s wrong with this world. The Earth is overpopulated with morally dead inhuman beings.
Yes, I’ve been exposed to senseless deaths before, of poached lions and tigers, puppy mills, cats tortured on Halloween, dog fighting rings, elephants killed for their tusks, jaguars killed for their glorious coats, and so many others, and I’ve always felt outrage, but the horrific execution of Cecil the lion… and the boastful killer all full of himself for this heinous slaughter… it pushed me over the edge.
I realized that there is no hope for this world, that there are just too many inhumans for this to ever get better. The sheer and utter stupidity of what this man and his cronies did, just because they thought it was fun, and Cecil the lion, yes he had a name, didn’t have a chance. The hunting party made sure of it. This was not a fair hunt. It was not even a legal hunt according to a press statement from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and several news sources.
A dentist from Minnesota decided that he wanted an ego boost, so off he went to Zimbabwe, Africa, to kill himself a lion. But here’s the thing. Cecil, one of the most famous lions in Hwange National Park, was allegedly lured out of the sanctuary, deliberately, by the hunting party that this American dentist put together for his trophy kill.
They tied a dead animal to a car as the lure, and then drove the car out of the protected national park and into unprotected territory. Then, dentist Walter J. Palmer of Minnesota, shot Cecil the lion with a crossbow, but Cecil didn’t die.
The lion ran off, wounded, and in pain, wondering what the hell just happened. This lion was a national park attraction, accustomed to people, friendly people. Once shot, Cecil the lion took off, looking for safety.
He didn’t find it.
News sources state that the hunters went to sleep for the night, and took up the chase the next morning. So they got a comfy night’s sleep while Cecil the lion, having been shot with a crossbow, suffered, in pain, went running for his life. Nobody has stated whether the arrow was stuck in him that whole time.
A lion hunting article on a website that sells hunting packages in Africa goes into great detail about what caliber of rifle to use when hunting lions because apparently, the first shot doesn’t always kill the lion even when using a rifle. The article warns that wounded lions will immediately attack the shooter in self-defense, and that they are capable of great speed in this counter-attack. Perhaps that’s why the hunters left it for awhile. The article also talks about how “exciting” it is to follow-up on a wounded lion during a hunt.
From the time Cecil the lion was first shot until the time the hunters caught up with him was forty hours — 40 hours — which is nearly two days. That’s how long Cecil the lion suffered before they caught up with him and shot him dead.
Then the dentist, all proud of himself, posed behind the dead lion for a photo op. Me kill lion, me big man, lookie lookie!
Once the photos were taken, Cecil the lion was skinned and beheaded. They chopped his head off, this majestic lion who’d been beloved by so many people, who lived in a sanctuary, whose life should have been protected. They hacked his head off, and skinned him. Wow.
And this wasn’t the first offense for the dentist. He committed another questionable kill for which he was convicted. Palmer was convicted of lying about a bear killed in 2006 according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil, and he allegedly attempted to bribe the guides to keep quiet in the bear hunting incident. I hope that the legal eagles who are investigating the death of Cecil the lion check into the bank accounts of Walter Palmer, Theo Bronkhorst, Honest Trymore Ndlovu, and anyone else involved to determine whether bribes were paid to hide the truth in Cecil’s slaughter.
Cecil the lion wasn’t just a park attraction, he was involved in an Oxford University Conservation Unit research study on lions, in addition to being “one of Africa’s most famous lions.” He was “identifiable” by his black-fringed mane and prominent GPS tracking collar.
Did the dentist know of Cecil’s famous identity beforehand? He claims not. So why did these men attempt to destroy Cecil’s GPS collar if they didn’t think they were doing anything wrong? Once the shit hit the fan and negative public opinion overran the airwaves, forcing the trophy hunter to shut down his dental practice at least for the moment, the dentist was all apologetic and claimed total ignorance of any wrongdoing, or of Cecil’s identity, laying the blame squarely on the guides that he hired.
I do not believe this man. And neither do thousands of others, including Oxford field researcher Brent Stapelkamp. Consider Palmer’s actions after killing Cecil the lion. The first thing he did was to boast about killing the “world’s biggest lion.” He allegedly holds the record for killing the largest white rhino ever killed by a crossbow. Does that sound like a random hunt to you?
The only aspect of this whole tragedy that keeps me sane is that hundreds of thousands of other people all across the planet, share my outrage. I’ve signed every petition put forth, and read the petition comments that others have left. It sparks a bit of hope in my heart to see how many people genuinely do care about this insane, senseless torture and slaughter, just to puff up some man’s ego.
Lions are in trouble, folks. They could go extinct within our lifetimes, and this is for real. Tigers are critically endangered, being just one step away from extinction, as are several other big game animals. This is not “one dead animal” with a hundred thousand others to take its place. Panthera leo, the scientific name for Leo the lion, encompasses all of the mighty, maned lions of Asia and Africa, meaning that the king of beasts which we hold in such high regard is in trouble, BIG trouble.
In just 20 years, the population of Panthera leo lions as a species has decreased by 30%. In the past 115 years, their numbers have decreased by 95% according to the African Wildlife Foundation. That’s an outrageous drop in population, and some subspecies are already fully extinct.
Where did all the lions go? Humans, mostly. We drove them out of their habitat, and we hunted them down, and now they are almost gone.
Panthera leo persica, or the Indian lion, is an endangered species. Originally its habitat included what is now Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India, but today it is found ONLY in India. As of April 2010, only 411 of these lions existed in the wild.
They are also declining due to natural causes, in addition to the poachers and trophy hunters out there picking off the rest. In 1994, one-third of all the lions in Tanzania’s Serengeti Reserve were wiped out by a canine distemper epidemic, in conjunction with a nasty tick-borne parasite called Babesia which infected the buffalos that the lions fed on.
Not only did this wipe out one-third of the Serengeti lions, it took out one-third of the Masai Mara and Ngorongoro Crater lions as well. The crater can support 120 lions, but a 1998 outbreak brought this number down to 29.
Cecil’s death could have a domino effect. His death may not end with a single lion. Two male lions protected the lion pride, Cecil and Jericho, and it is not believed that Jericho can protect the pride on his own. Raider males could invade and kill off not only Jericho, but all of the lion cubs of Cecil and Jericho. So the killing would be multiplied.
Here’s another little factoid about Cecil the lion, and it would have made him a prime target for a trophy hunter… he had a black mane. Killing a lion with a black mane impacts the safety of the entire lion pride even more-so than a blond-maned lion. Not only do lionesses prefer dark-maned partners, rival males are less likely to attack a dark-maned male, so the entire pride lost the godfather of all protectors.
Country by country, these majestic big cats are going extinct. Here are a few FACTS from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and “critically endangered” means that they are just one step away from “extinct in the wild”:
- Barbary lion — went extinct in 1960s
- Cape lion — went extinct in 1800s
- Bali tiger — went extinct in 1940s
- Javan tiger — went extinct in 1970s
- Caspian tiger — went extinct in 1970s
- West African lion — critically endangered
- Sumatran tiger — critically endangered
- South China tiger — critically endangered
- Malayan tiger — critically endangered
- Javan leopard — critically endangered
- Arabian leopard — critically endangered
- Amur leopard — critically endangered
- Saharan cheetah — critically endangered
- Asiatic cheetah — critically endangered
- Amur tiger — endangered
- Indo-Chinese tiger — endangered
- Bengal tiger — endangered
- Sri-Lanka leopard — endangered
- Persian leopard — endangered
The Barbary lion was the biggest subspecies of Panthera leo with manes that extended well past their neck and shoulders down to their belly. For this mane, they would have been highly prized as trophies.
The Cape lion disappeared so quickly after the arrival of Europeans, that this extinction is believed to have been wholly caused by humans hunting the lion to extinction. While the following is not related to Cape lions, it demonstrates how quickly trophy hunters can eradicate them:
The 1873 Cyclopaedia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia, Second Edition, Volume 3, edited by Edward Balfour, had a segment about lions in Hurrianah (Haryana), India. The majority of the four-page tract on lions revolved around hunting them:
“There remains no doubt of lions in Hurrianah in the beginning of the 19th century… only twenty-three years elapsed from the occupation of the country, when the lions, which were at one time in the dry and sandy deserts of the Hurrianah, became extinct south of the Cuggar.” During hot weather, the lions had nowhere to go to find protected dens near water holes, so they lived unprotected near the water holes, which also happened to be near people. “Their retreat was easily beaten up, and their entire destruction speedily effected. In the month of May, a lion-shooting party had only to ask from the people of the country, where water was still to be found, to know whither they might export sport.”
“In the days of Lord Hastings’ rule, lions were common in the Great Hurrianah plain,” and Hansi was “considered the best sporting country in India. Lions were found in considerable numbers, although lately they have become exceedingly rare.”
One man boasted killing 50 lions, and another boasted killing 11 in a single month. Lions were described as a “more exciting sport by far” for their tendency to fight back against being killed by trophy hunters. They fought hard for the right to life, and they lost.
The 1908 African Native Notes and Reminiscences by Frederick Courteney Selous, spent an inordinate amount of time on lion hunting, and its effect on the population of lions:
“In countries where lions have long lived undisturbed by human beings, and where they have really been the undisputed lords of the wilderness, they roar very freely, and may often be heard even after the sun has risen. But when white men suddenly invade a well-stocked game country and disturb its peace by continual shooting, lions gradually grow more and more silent, till it becomes rare to hear one roar at all, though there may still be a good many of them about.”
Even with subspecies that aren’t extinct yet, lions are disappearing, country by country. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species for 2015, Panthera leo lions are extinct in Afghanistan, Algeria, Burundi, Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Iran, Islamic Republic of, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Turkey, and Western Sahara.
They are possibly extinct in Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Rwanda, Togo, and the Ivory Coast.
Lions in East Africa are in rapid decline according to the IUCN Red List, and this region has historically been a stronghold for lions. “Trade in bones and other body parts” for medicine “has been identified as a new, emerging threat to the species.” So lions are following the march of tigers toward extinction.
Tigers are listed as one of the Top Ten endangered species in the world by the World Wide Fund for Nature. And between folk medicine, human population expansion, and trophy hunters, lions are doomed to follow.
Right now, today, there are estimated to be only 3,200 tigers left in the entire world. That’s less than half the 1998 estimate, and using simple math, it will take nine more human generations to wipe them out completely. As in No More Tigers… Anywhere… Ever. Period.
Tigers are killed so that their body parts can be used in tiger wine, tiger powder, tiger pills, and tiger balms, to treat every disease imaginable. Folk medicine has used tigers for centuries, treating epilepsy and malaria with tiger eyeballs, convulsions with tiger bile, toothaches with whiskers, insomnia with claws, leprosy with tiger fat, hemorrhoids with tiger poop, and pimples with tiger brains.
But nothing is more valuable than tiger bone wine, which is peddled as relief for arthritis, and as an elixir to prolong life. Fifty-five pounds of tiger bones costs $350,000, while a case of tiger bone wine can cost upwards of $31,000. And this alleged longevity… have you ever met a 150 year old person? Is this worth exterminating an entire species over?
Tigers are being poached to extinction, even in protected areas, just like Cecil the lion. And here’s the rub, with the tiger population rapidly dwindling, vintners (makers of tiger bone wine) have turned to lion bones as replacements.
This is serious, folks. We are talking about a world that has NO LIONS and NO TIGERS in just a few more human generations, if even that long. Our great-great-grandchildren could live in a world where both of these majestic creatures are EXTINCT, because we don’t care enough to protect them right now, while there’s still time to fix this.
If we don’t take emergency action immediately, Defenders of Wildlife predicts the complete extinction of wild lions by the year 2020! And that in an Africa without lions, eco-tourism would wither away, tourist revenue would dry up, and overall poverty would increase.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave a similar prediction in 2014. “The human population of sub-Saharan Africa is projected to more than double by 2050 — making a bad situation worse. Unless aggressive measures are taken to protect lions, their prey and habitat, the lion will likely face the threat of extinction within that time frame.”
Knowing all of this, is what destroys me inside when I look at the grinning face of dentist Walter J. Palmer of Minnesota posing with his trophy kill. One ego-maniac trophy hunter put a face on everything that’s wrong with this world. He is part of the problem — this hunting of lions and tigers to extinction. His actions, and the activities of the other morally dead inhuman beings who share his careless mentality, will result in the big cats disappearing from our world — forever.
If you are as enraged as I am, sign these petitions, share them on your Facebook page, Twitter, and everywhere else you can think of. Keep this issue at the forefront until Walter Palmer is brought to justice, and until the laws are changed to prevent this from happening again. We need strong laws and stiff penalties if we’re going to have any hope of preventing lions, tigers, and other big cats from going extinct.
Do something. Say something. Blog about it. Talk about it. Tweet it. Share it. Don’t let this issue die. Don’t let the media sweep this under the rug. In just two days, the slaughter of Cecil the lion and everything that it represents has fallen off the top stories in the news media. Is that all his life was worth? Just two days?
Justice for Cecil petition — United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
Justice for Cecil petition — Robert Gabriel Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe
Extradite Walter James Palmer petition — President Barack Obama at the White House
* * * * *
If you missed the news stories on the horrific slaughter of Cecil the lion, read these:
- Death of Zimbabwe’s Best-Loved Lion Ignites Debate on Sport Hunting — National Geographic
- Twisted logic behind lion hunts — CNN
- What About Cecil the Lion’s Unnamed Cousins? — New York Times
- Cecil the lion’s death prompts calls to ban trophy hunt imports to US — The Guardian
- Update on Cecil the Lion — Born Free
- Zimbabwe wants Cecil the lion’s killer extradited — Washington Post
- Read the full statement from Walter Palmer on killing of Cecil the lion — Star Tribune
* * * * *
I became aware of the rapidly declining populations of the big cats in 2013, while researching the back story for King of the Forest, which is the third book of An Acre of America Backyard Nature Series. This back yard nature photoblog features full-color photos and fun facts about the amazing insects, animals, and plant life that lives on our one acre.