So here’s the deal: Walter J. Palmer, a yearly big game hunter from Minnesota, went to Zimbabwe to kill his second lion. (He had killed one before, which is the picture being widely circulated mislabeled as he, his guide and Cecil.) He paid $55,000 for the privilege. Since there were no lions to be found on the private game reserve, the guides tied a dead animal to a truck and lured Cecil, a famous and GPS tagged lion under study by an Oxford University group, out of the neighboring national park. This makes it twice over illegal as you can’t kill animals from national parks and you can’t kill tagged/collared animals that are part of a scientific study.
Palmer bungled the initial shot with his bow and arrow, wounding Cecil but not killing him. 40 hours later (40 agonizing hours later for Cecil) they tracked Cecil down and killed him with a rifle. They removed Cecil’s tracking collar tried to ditch it (some accounts say they tried to destroy it, but either way it was removed). Then they skinned Cecil and cut off his head as trophies. Then Palmer flew home, free as a bird.
The lead hunting guide turned himself in. It is unclear whether this was before or after Cecil’s body was found by the authorities. The owner of the game reserve was also arrested. Both face charges.
Palmer made a statement from his new PR firm saying: “I hired several professional guides, and they secured all proper permits. To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled.
I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.
I have not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the U.S. about this situation, but will assist them in any inquiries they may have.
Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion,”
There are three big problems with his statement. First, even *If* Palmer did not know what his guides were doing or that it was illegal to hunt at night (as he was trophy hunter with decades of experience including several trips to Africa to hunt before, and as the guides obviously had done this before, I find his claim of ignorance implausible) and even *if* Palmer and the guides somehow missed Cecil’s collar when they lured him out of the park (which is possible as this took place at night) and the initial shot was taken, when they caught up the Cecil 40 hours later and killed him there is absolutely *no way* Palmer did not see the collar and did not approve and/or take part in removing and trying to get rid of it. At that point, there is no denying that he knew what he had done was illegal.
Now the guy last year who killed the tagged wolf immediately turned himself in. But Palmer just flew home, figuring “What happens in Zimbabwe, stays in Zimbabwe” and that as an American, Zimbabwe justice would never touch him.
The second problem is that in this: The “…activity (he) loved and practices responsibly and legally…” He was convicted of poaching in 2008. Two years prior he killed a Black Bear outside the legal hunting area and then tried to pass it off as having been killed within the area.
The third problem is he claimed that no one from the Zimbabwe government has contacted him. The Zimbabwe government has stated they are searching for him to discuss the incident. Maybe Palmer should contact the Zimbabwe embassy rather than hiring a PR firm.
I was raised in a backwoods of Maine in a hunting culture, and I understand hunting for sustenance. During the recession of the late 1970’s, Maine was hit hard and a lot of families turned to deer, rabbit and partridge (and occasionally moose) hunting to supplement their diet.
But trophy hunting is simply vile. It’s the activity of the small-penised or penis-envying to shore up their flaccid ego by taking part in a deadly game that is laughably one sided. Sometimes even worse than that: Some game reserves raise their animals to be human friendly. So hunters can walk right up to them and shoot them. It’s disgusting, appalling, horrifying and tragic.
But on private lands with the correct permits it’s legal. If someone pays $35k to $60K to bag a lion or a rhino or elephant, the game reserve feels they have to give them their money’s worth or they will have to give refunds and lose business. The questions this incident raises are: How many times have the guides of this reserve lured animals out of the park to satisfy their customers? How many hunts are being held at night? How many other private reserves near National Parks/protected areas do the same/similar things? How many “legal” trophy hunters are actually poaching?
But what Palmer and his party did was absolutely illegal. It was not hunting, it was poaching and he deserves to be punished for his repeated crime. Now, people have put his practice and his personal information online. That’s wrong. That’s doxxing and his family does not deserve to suffer for his crimes.
What needs to happen is Palmer needs to be extradited to Zimbabwe to face the authorities. (And we do have an extradition treaty with them.) The maximum sentence for poaching is five years in prison (and I am sure their prisons are quite different from the minimum security resorts here). I hope he not only receives such a sentence, but that he has to pay a $100,000 (or more) fine to go directly to Zimbabwe’s National Parks system.
The White House “We the People” site has three petitions going to demand Palmer’s Extradition:
Please sign one. Please sign them all. If one of the petitions reaches 100,000 signatures in 30 days, the White House has to address it.
It can’t replace what Palmer took. But he can help protect National Parks more and discourage him and other game reserves and big game hunters from pulling the same shenanigans. If trophy hunters realize they might have to spend time in a Zimbabwe or Namibian or South African prison for their illegal actions, I think that would put many of them on the straight and narrow and protect the animals in African conservation parks.
As to why this is so important, the population of lions in Africa is “collapsing” due to poaching. It’s bad enough when the authorities have to fight off local poachers, but Americans and Europeans who come to “legally” hunt and then turn out to be poachers simply add to the problem and do not deserve to be let off from crimes others are punished for.
In the meantime R.I.P. Cecil, you magnificent being.
You deserved so much better.
Dear Lord and Dear Lady, please take the soul of Cecil deep in your warm embrace. Let him sleep there safe and happy, until he is reborn into the next life in joy.
Another thing we can do, just as important, is to support conservation efforts in Cecil’s memory.
The Wildlife Conservation Society is also an excellent charity for international conservation efforts.
And within the United States, the Defenders of Wildlife do great work.