Requiescat in Pace Cecil the Lion

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.

Cecil-and-Jericho_3390407b

Last picture of Cecil (seated). Jericho, the leader of a partner-pride, is standing behind him.

Update: Apparently, it is also illegal to hunt at night.

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.

Sound familiar?

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.

cecil-and-lioness-brent-stapelkamp

Cecil and one of his females

And I have discussed the Fallacies of Big Game hunting before.

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:

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petitions

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.

(Update: One of the petitions passed the 100,000 signature threshold in 24 hours. By the terms of use of the website, this means the White House *has* to respond to 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.

Cecil

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 Wild CRU is the group who was monitoring Cecil and other lions in the park. They could use your help.

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.

….Update….

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So Here is the Real Skinny on Big Game Trophy “Hunting”

      (I have no idea what is happening with formatting on this post. I apologize in advance.)
      Now let me preface with my perspective here: I grew up in a hunting culture in the backwoods of Maine. The people around me hunted deer, moose, partridge, rabbits, etc. for food. I am a vegetarian now (and have been for 22 years), but I respect that kind of hunting. That is not wasting any of the animal. That is not endangering an entire species. That is at least getting closer to the reality and responsibility of consuming meat than people buying it at the grocery store do. (And I know that vegetarianism is a personal choice, not a lifestyle for everyone. Humans are naturally omnivores.) So I am not completely anti-hunting.
      Big Game/Trophy Hunting just pisses me the fuck off.
      It is 110 pages but if you really want to know how “effective” trophy hunting is for conservation and contributing money to these countries’ economies? Here is the summary:
      Today in sub-Saharan Africa, very large areas are used for big game hunting (approximately 1.4 million km²), which is 22% more than all national Parks of the region. Therefore, it is an important component of African rural landscapes. This study clarifies the role of big game hunting, with an emphasis on West Africa. The data gathered has been analyzed to clarify the pertinence of big game hunting according to conservation, socio-economic and good governance criteria.
      Regarding conservation, big game hunting shows mixed results. Some areas are geographically stable, and wildlife populations are significant, but this is not the norm. Large disparities are seen between areas. Where management levels are similar, the conservation results from big game hunting are lower than those of neighbouring national parks or reserves. Hunting areas are less resistant to external pressures than national parks, and thus will play a lesser role in future conservation strategies. An undeniable positive result is that the conservation results that are obtained are entirely financed by the hunters, without support from donors and often without government commitment.
      The economic results of big game hunting are low. Land used for hunting generates much smaller returns than that used for agriculture or livestock breeding. Hunting contributions to GDP and States’ national budgets are insignificant (Kip note: according to the report, in most countries where this is an industry, it is less than 1%), especially when considering the size of the areas concerned. Economic returns per hectare, for the private sector and for governments are insufficient for proper management. Returns for local populations, even when managed by community projects (CBNRM) are insignificant, and cannot prompt them to change their behaviour regarding poaching and agricultural encroachment. The number of salaried jobs generated (15 000 all over Africa) is low considering that 150 million people live in the eight main big game hunting countries, and that hunting takes up 16.5% of their territory. To summarise, the hunting sector uses up a lot of space without generating corresponding socio-economic benefits.
      Good governance is also absent from almost the entire big game hunting sector in many countries. Those who currently have control of the system are not prepared to share that power and undertake adjustments that would mean relinquishing control. They attempt, thanks to a fairly opaque system, to keep a largely exhausted management system going. This position serves individual interests, but not those of conservation, governments or local communities.
      Hunting used to have, and still has, a key role to play in African conservation. It is not certain that the conditions will remain the same. Hunting does not however play a significant economic or social role and does not contribute at all to good governance.
      The question, however, can be summarised today as: can we do conservation better than big game hunting has up until now, in those areas where big game hunting is practiced? This is not at all sure, all the more so in that big game hunting pays for itself.
      The advent of consideration of environmental services and sustainable financing makes it possible to envisage financing these networks from a new angle. The environment is increasingly seen as a global good which cannot be used exclusively for individual interests or those of a minority. In modern protected area networks, hunting areas still have an important role to play in conservation: that of financing and maintaining the peripheral areas around conservation blocks.
      Here is another study that confirms these findings.
      In short, the way it is being run now it’s corrupt and inefficient with no impact on the economy and an uneven impact on conservation. It is certainly not as effective as the national parks. And it is certainly not as effective as pro-big game hunters claim.
      The fact is that over the last few years, poaching has gotten completely out of control as guerrilla armies and organized crime have become involved in the ivory and rhino horn trade. And poachers do not differentiate between open land, park land and private land.
      While pro-hunting types love to point to private hunting reserves bringing the population of the Southern White Rhinoceros back (to around 17,500 individuals), they neglect to mention that the Northern White Rhinoceros has only seven confirmed adults living in captivity and is considered extinct in the wild. The Western Black Rhino has only 740 individuals in the wild, while Eastern Black Rhino was hunted to extinction (following four of its sister species) in 2013. We will never see one alive again. (Rhinos in Asia don’t have it easy either.)
      African Elephant population numbers are in free fall (both Forrest and Bush Elephants are listed as ‘Vulnerable‘). So are African Lions and Common Hippos. African Leopards are swiftly approaching Vulnerable status. Cheetahs, also on the menu for trophy hunting, are Vulnerable, on the edge of Endangered.
      It’s perfectly legal to hunt all these animals.
      It’s perfectly legal to beat women in Saudi Arabia for wearing jeans. That does not make it right.
      And if they want to give meat to the locals (another frequent rationalization), they can buy them a few cows.
      As someone on Fark said, this is the equivalent of a Saudi prince paying Dick Cheney a billion dollars to hunt a Bald Eagle and then dumping the carcass off at a homeless shelter on his way to the airport.
      Given that the hard numbers show the benefits of legal hunting are highly dubious at this point, the “trophy hunting is great for conservation” argument holds little to no water. Dead is dead. It doesn’t matter if a poacher does it or a licensed hunter, the pressure on the population is still the same.
      These hunting trips are incredibly expensive, and little of that is making its way back into the local economy. The tags to hunt a rhino or elephant can cost tens of thousands of dollars, while the guides are hundreds of dollars a day. And here is the sick part: on most of private hunting reserves, there is little to no “hunting” involved for the guest. The guides do the work, often driving the guests to where they know the animals will be. (After all, if the guests go home empty handed, they won’t come back and they won’t recommend it to people.) Sometimes the animals are raised on the reserve to be accustomed to human presence. The guests are not hunting, they are doing target practice with live animals.
     Live vulnerable and endangered animals.
     I understand that sometimes populations need to be culled (though if the animals had enough land to live in it would not be so much of a problem!), but professional rangers and biologists know how to do it far better than some wealthy thrill seeker. And who the hell learns that a rhino species was *just* declared extinct due to hunting and says, “Let’s go kill some more! Yippee!”
     A sociopath, that’s who.
      Big Game/Trophy Hunting is nothing but rich people to shoring up their fragile little egos by pitting themselves against an innocent creature in a laughably one-sided match. It is sick, and the people who do it are sick.