I read an interesting article in Jamie’s Oxford Today: The University Magazine about Cecil the lion, or rather the legacy of the Cecil incident. Cecil, of course, was the lion killed by a trophy hunting dentist in 2015 in Hwange, Zimbabwe. The article doesn’t appear to be online just now, but there is this site.
Lindsey and I visited Hwange in 1984, and again, with our sons, in 1994. It used to be a very popular game park, though in 1984 is was quiet due to the savage Gukurahundi.
In 1984 Lindsey and I hired a car along with some other people we’d met, and had an enjoyable game drive around the game park. On the way back to our campsite, as the sun went down, we crossed the path of some lions, almost certainly now I think about it, Cecil’s ancestors. That was a thrill, until we suddenly realised that there was no wall or fence around the campsite, and that we were due to sleep in a small tent. However, we lived to tell the tale.
There were quite a lot of lions in Hwange at that time. The article in Oxford Today points out that ‘regulated and well-managed, responsible and ethical hunting can provide multiple benefits in Zimbabwe to local communities and the national economy’. I have no argument with that statement. Controlled hunting can help the survival of other animals. The Oxford Today article mentions the fact that research is ongoing to study the economics of hunting versus phototourism, the results of which will be interesting. Why is it one versus the other, you may well ask? Well, it’s not, really. Hunting usually takes place in very remote areas where phototourists would be unlikely to tread. Hmm – except in some shooting reserves further south.
Outside of Hwange, hunters have a quota of kills. This has, however, an unusual ‘perturbation effect’ – territorial vacuums are created that encourage male lions from the park to move into. The work of WildCRU at Oxford encouraged the Zim government to drastically reduce the quota.
The article also points out that Palmer, the dentist, had all his papers in order. He was legally entitled to shoot game, whether you agree with this or not. So, much of the outrage is probably unjustified. He should not have shot Cecil, however. Cecil had a GPS collar. Theo Bronkhurst, Palmer’s guide, should have seen the collar. In any case, Bronkhurst didn’t have the correct paperwork (this is disputed [details here]), and neither did the landowner of Antoinette farm, Honest Ndlovu, on whose property Cecil was killed, though this is also disputed.
Once lawyers get involved, just about anything can become disputed.
I can’t find any photos of our 1994 trip to Hwange, but the above looks like Jamie on the same trip in Matopos, which is to the south-west of Zimbabwe.
Cecil’s partial legacy is that many people were outraged by his shooting, and donated funds to WildCRU, which has allowed them to continue with some excellent work.