Thoughts on Cecil

Regardless of where one falls on the rather broad spectrum of views on hunting, I think nearly everyone agrees that poachers – those who hunt animals illegally – are the worst of the worst.  Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer is a poacher, having plead guilty in 2008 to a felony related to a bear he illegally killed in Wisconsin.

Earlier this month, Palmer paid professional hunting guides $55,000 so he could go to Zimbabwe and kill a lion with a crossbow.  Palmer and his guides tied a dead animal to the back of their vehicle and scented an area just outside Hwange National Park to lure the lion out of the protected area at night.  The 13 year old lion, a beloved tourist attraction named Cecil who was wearing a GPS collar and being monitored by researchers from Oxford University, followed the scent out of the park and onto private property where Palmer lay in wait.  Palmer reportedly shot Cecil with an arrow and the lion fled in terror.  Palmer and his guides tracked the injured lion for 2 days and finally killed him with a rifle.  He then allegedly tried to destroy Cecil’s tracking collar, cut off his head and skinned him, leaving the headless, skinless remains to rot:

The hunt was illegal, according to Zimbabwe parks authorities, who say that the hunter and the landowner did not have permits to kill a lion. The landowner and professional guide accompanying Palmer will face court in early August for poaching charges[.]

Calls for the prosecution of Palmer have been swift and numerous.  In a statement, Palmer threw his guides under the bus and claimed he didn’t know Cecil was collared until after he finished killing him.  His statement fails to address why at that point he didn’t report the killing to authorities but instead went ahead with the beheading and skinning of Cecil.

Trophy hunting is big business and Americans make up the vast majority of trophy hunters.  Lion “trophies” get sent to the U.S. more than any other place in the world.  And some conservationists support trophy hunting as a means to manage and fund conservation efforts.

I don’t know if Walter Palmer is concerned about conservation work or whether he has ever used his money to help animals stay alive.  In researching this post, I found that in 2009, he paid $127,500 and agreed to undergo sexual harassment training to settle a claim filed against him by a female employee who said she “was subjected to verbal comments and physical conduct involving her breasts, buttocks, and genitalia.”  In 2012, he donated $5000 to the presidential election campaign of fellow animal abuser Mitt Romney.  I did not find any record of Palmer funding conservation efforts directly.

Whether one supports or condemns trophy hunting, it is legal and will continue to take place, courtesy of rich Americans mostly.  Poaching of course is illegal but it too will continue so long as there is someone with cash in hand.  On Monday, under cover of darkness, poachers killed an adult female elephant and 4 of her offspring in Tsavo West National Park in Kenya, hacked off their tusks then escaped on motorcycles.  The story barely made the news.

In the midst of all the back and forth over the sinister killing of Cecil, many people have been deeply moved.  Late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel choked up on live television when talking about the story.  An interview with Ernest Small, an academic who specializes in biodiversity revealed that, despite understanding the science behind the emotional reaction to Cecil’s death, even he feels upset:

“I was disgusted frankly. If there was a lynch mob I’d probably join it,” he said, acknowledging the irony.

Our relationship with animals is complicated.  I don’t have any particular wisdom to impart regarding Cecil and I am just as sad and angry as everyone else.  I don’t think that signing a petition or making a donation is going to make me feel better although I’m certainly not opposed to either.  Being human is a heavy burden and a great responsibility.  Animals have always made that burden easier for me and in return, I try to be as compassionate and respectful as possible.  It’s not enough and it doesn’t negate the Walter Palmers of the world, but it’s something.  And something beats the hell out of nothing any day of the week.  Where there’s life, there’s hope.

Cecil with a lioness.  (Photo by Brent  Stapelkamp)
Cecil with a lioness. (Photo by Brent Stapelkamp)

52 thoughts on “Thoughts on Cecil

  1. Very eloquent post. Everyone I talk to, from fellow animal advocates to my former Special Forces friend whose house is loaded w. guns, is revolted by this event. Of course Cecil’s 20+ cubs will now also be killed by other male lions. MAYBE this revulsion will be channeled into awareness & action.

  2. Where is Cecil’s head and skin now? Were they transported back to the US? If so, what airline did they come in on? I’d love to know and would love to target that airline.

  3. Thank you for this thought provoking, informative post. Poaching is a most ridiculous act of violence toward creation, and I’m glad that people are speaking up to hold this person accountable.

  4. I am hoping the death of Cecil will bring attention to all the animals in Africa that are threatened with extinction, and killed daily by trophy hunting and poaching. Future generations will only see these magnificent creatures in picture books.

  5. Well said. Although I’m not a hunter myself, I do know that hunting licenses here in the US are very important for the support of conservation and habitat preservation. But we don’t have a big poaching problem here. The situation in Africa is so different. For some threatened species, legal hunting seems to be having a positive effect – encouraging locals to preserve the needed habitat more than offsets the losses to hunters. But with animals with huge territories like lions and elephants, it doesn’t work so well. This is just so tragic and irresponsible. I don’t know if Palmer was specifically trying to get Cecil but obviously they were trying to lure a lion out of the protected park. That is beyond despicable, and they knew it was illegal.

  6. Thank you for bringing all these points together, Shirley. I am pained by all the senseless killing of wildlife for trophies and for money, but this blatant need to kill this lion and bring the trophy home was such a primal act, and Palmer such a viscerally unlikable person–really, doesn’t anyone get the connection between paid trophy killing and sexual harassment with likely physical abuse thrown in there somewhere in his past as well–that it’s more painful than usual. That some people are permitted and encouraged to perpetrate their abuse throws us way back into human history and we really need to evolve.

  7. RIP Cecil and all of the other victims of poachers and trophy hunters. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in such a reasonable and sensible manner. I’m ashamed that Americans seem to be at the forefront of this despicable activity (it truly is NOT sport).

  8. Seriously? Slurring Mitt Romney as an “animal abuser” is over the top. The rest of your thoughtful comments disappear under a fog of disgust when such a hateful and ignorant mindset is demonstrated.

    1. Do you really think that strapping a fearful dog in a crate on top of a moving car for hours is NOT animal abuse? Seriously?

    2. And when the scared shitless dog had diarrhea in its crate, Mitt & sons hosed him off while in the crate, and left him on top off the car, driving on the freeway to ‘air dry’ him! They put their *luggage* inside the car, but put their living, breathing, supposedly loved DOG on the roof of the station wagon! Yes, that’s what jaggoffs do to get branded an animal abuser – and Mitt said he didn’t think he’d done anything wrong, and had actually done it more than once.

  9. I cried when I heard the news. And I am sure there are still tears in Heaven for the needless killing of such a majestic beast by an idiot. The arrogance of mankind is astounding.

  10. Thank you Shirley for sharing in this so sad killing of Cecil – you are a comfort.

    RE: Mitt Romney – he abuses women too not just animals. (When he was a Bishop or whatever in Boston – read a story about how he “counseled” a woman to give up her child, – apparently he deemed her unworthy – she was young, unmarried and poor) she didn’t give up her child instead she gave up the Mormon church and the Mitt. He is over the top but I think most people have that figured out.

  11. I have to confess that I took rather more glee in the hatefest against this jerk than is probably right… but still I enjoyed the rain of rage that came down on him. All I could think was, “Dude, you may want to brace yourself – this karma is going to sting a bit.”

    But there are so many consequences to his actions that he never considered, I’m sure. Yes, he killed Cecil. And in doing so, he has likely condemned all of Cecil’s and Jericho’s offspring to horrible death by other male lions because Jericho will not be able to hold the prides together and protect them by himself. Every time you see someone grinning in a photo of a dead male lion they killed, remember all the cubs who will now die, too.

    Then we have his dental practice – do you think he thought about his poor employees should people find out that he’s an asshole, um, I mean, “big game hunter”? No, he did not.

    Did he save money for his children’s college while he was busy spending big bucks on killing things – you know, just in case something happened to his income? Hope so. Because those kids are now screwed, too.

    Actions have consequences. When we choose the action, we choose the consequence, knowingly or unknowingly.

  12. The scandal is not the killing of Cecil, bad as that was. It’s that trophy hunting is LEGAL.. as is trapping, its equally disgusting (and more common) relative. People are pillorying this one hunter.. though it’s far from clear that any of his actions were illegal under Zimbabwean law, let alone US law (we’re the biggest importer of lion trophies). I hope they make the connection to the bigger issue of the disgusting exploitation of wildlife. But I fear most have gotten so wrapped up in this latest Internet hate minute that they have blinded themselves to the real story.. and the substantive actions they could take in each state (join the groups lobbying against trapping and trophy hunting).

    1. While there are always people who won’t look beyond the moment’s outrage, some will. The outrage also helps – even that of people who are just in the moment – it’s one more step to making sport hunting unacceptable. That makes it easier to politicians to act, since most won’t stick their necks out for something unpopular.

  13. Well said Shirley. I hope Clarice is right. I hope his death brings awareness. Its the only possible light I can see.

  14. Very well said, Shirley. I am outraged and absolutely broken hearted. Such a sadness over the brutal death of a beloved lion.

  15. Palmer’s guide has given an interview to The Telegraph. He says the animal they tied to their vehicle to bait Cecil was a dead elephant they “found”. And he’s got various excuses including Palmer’s luggage had gotten lost and the guide was running around looking for it which set them back and so they couldn’t get to the originally planned hunting site. Also he doesn’t want to kill animals but it’s the only way he can earn a living, blah.

    1. And yeah, they “found” a dead elephant. Coincidentally, Palmer wanted to kill a really big elephant. Sounds like they found one, he killed it, it was “too small”, so they used it to bait Cecil.

  16. Given Dr. Palmer’s hunting experience and his level of expertise in trophy hunting and his knowledge of the animals involved, especially with regard to animals that would provide a prestigious “trophy,” there is no way on God’s green earth that he did not know who that lion was the moment he saw him. He not only poached, trespassed, hunted without a permit, and participated in luring a protected animal from a designated preserve, HE SHOT CECIL KNOWINGLY, WILLFULLY, AND ON PURPOSE. Cecil was an unusually colored, extremely large black lion and recognizable by the average tourist. Dr. Palmer is not sorry he made a “mistake.” He didn’t make a mistake and he is only sorry that he got caught after trying to hide what he had done. He would do it again in a heartbeat if he thought he could get away with it. The only things he cares about are the thrill of the hunt, the elation of sighting his weapon on the animal, the euphoria of the kill, and the pleasure of looking at his resulting “trophy ” on his wall, which allows him to reminisce about what a wonderful experience it all was and say with great pride that he killed that animal. I hope he finds hell on earth. Meanwhile, rest peacefully with the lambs, Cecil and may God bless you.

    1. I agree it’s reasonable to suspect Palmer’s version of events (I knew nothing) is false. He’s been caught lying about poaching before. Even if we were to accept his version of events as accurate, the fact that he cut off the head and skin, gave them to the guide for curing in preparation for the taxidermist then hot-footed it the hell off the continent shows guilt IMO. I know he would have taken pictures of himself posing with Cecil’s remains and if there are any phone hackers out there who can break into his phone, well – I wouldn’t tell. Those pictures should be seen.

  17. According to the Daily Fail – so take it with a grain of salt – Oxford’s Wild Conservation Unit has reported that Cecil’s successor, Jericho, is protecting Cecil’s cubs rather than killing them.

    The headline is pretty garbled. Jericho isn’t Cecil’s brother so far as anyone has said, but rather a male with whom he’d formed what they’re calling a coalition, against other rival males. So I suppose BFF might be closer.

    1. Coalitions are formed by relatives or non-relatives. The males share and protect the females and their cubs in the pride. I posted the interview with the Oxford researcher. Coalitions are mentioned and the possibility that Jericho may be able to protect the cubs.

    2. I never read anywhere that the cubs were in danger from Jericho. Rather, that Jericho would not be able to protect both groups of lionesses/cubs by himself from other males. He and Cecil worked as a team. Alone, his chances are much less good.

    3. Most of the first articles that came out said the cubs were in danger from/possibly already killed by Jericho. Now, I personally have no idea of those writers misunderstood what the information they were given.

    1. I’m on my phone so I can’t link it, but the Hwange Trust Facebook page is reporting Jericho was NOT killed. There is a ban on hunting on land bordering the parks effective immediately.

      1. Until we hear definitive confirmation from the non-profit who tracks the lions via the collars or a park official or someone equally credible, I’m going to keep hoping with all my heart. Either way, it’s tragic and whether it was Jericho or another male lion, I wish they’d catch the motherfucking poacher and put him in prison.

    2. There is activity on the GPS collars for Jericho and some lionesses in his pride. So unless the poacher tied the collar to another lion he is safe.

      But it is still a tragedy. That lion might have had a pride himself. Those cubs are in danger now too.

      If absolutely nothing else, I pray this wakes people up to just how common trophy hunting is. I’ve seen a few report saying some lawmakers in Washington are planing on introducing a law that would restrict the import of trophies the same way ivory is. That would cut down on a large part of it at least.

  18. The report that Jericho (who is NOT Cecil’s brother, but an unrelated male) was killed came from a source that has become notorious (to me anyway) for making statements that turned out to be untrue. The researchers following Jericho have reported that he is alive… these are RELIABLE sources. I don’t know what more people want. Among other things, this story has become a lesson in media ineptitude.

    You can read the quote comparing Rodrigues to The National Enquirer. EVERY version of the “Jericho dead” story can be traced to him

  19. Fair is fair ! Tie a dead animal to this SOB’s back and release him into the same game reserve where this lion lived and give it a day or two.Then, shoot him in the ass with an arrow and let him suffer the same way the innocent lion did until nature takes it’s course. Payback is a bitch you useless piece of shit !!!

  20. The New York City Empire State building put up (all lit up for all to see) Cecil’s giant gorgeous photo to raise awareness. So beautiful.

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