Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cecil the Lion - murdered by a dentist.

Unless you have been completely off the grid this week, you have certainly heard the story of Cecil, the lion murdered by a dentist, Walter Palmer, from Minnesota. Just a few weeks ago, this "man" paid $50,000 to hunt down and kill an adult African Lion in Zimbabwe. Why, you may ask. A trophy? A story? To compensate for something else lacking in his pathetic little life? No matter what it is, the answer doesn't really matter. It's heartbreaking. 

Of course, no animal should ever be murdered in the way Cecil was, but the tragedy of his death stretches far beyond the story of one lion. Cecil was the head of two lion prides in Zimbabwe. His prides include six lionesses, twelve young cubs and Jericho, another male. Jericho will likely be taking over the leadership role, providing another lion does not challenge him for that spot. In lion culture, it is not uncommon for the leading male to kill any cubs sired by another male, so as of right now, the fate of Cecil's cubs remains unknown. 

In addition to his pride being torn apart, Cecil was part of an ongoing lion study by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University. With an estimated 30,000 lions left in all of Africa, studies like the one being conducted at Oxford are crucial to ensuring that these animals are not at risk of disappearing altogether. 

"The death of one lion is not just the death of one lion - it is a cascade. It has consequences."

-Professor David Macdonald, Wildlife Conservation Unit at Oxford

I have seen some individuals out there in the cyber world defending the monster that murdered Cecil stating that he was "controlling the population" or "killing for food". Let me clear up the situation for anyone that may think this hunt was conducted in a 'responsible way' (I put that in quotes because I don't believe murder really is ever responsible). This hunt was 100% illegal. 

According to the Zimbabwe officials, the land owner Honest Trymore Ndlovu (I see the irony in his name being Honest) and a professional hunter, Theo Bronchorst teamed up with Palmer for the lion hunt. The problem with this is simple - no one had a permit issued to kill a lion. In Zimbabwe, these hunts are common, however, to keep animal populations from simply disappearing to D-bags like these three guys, permits are required before any 'big game' animal is murdered

Walter Palmer, the dentist, states that he believed his hunt was legal and blames his guides for deceiving him. A statement issued by Palmer read, "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. Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion.”
The office where dentist Walter Palmer works has become a
makeshift memorial by local animal lovers. The clinic has
been closed since the news of Cecil's death broke.

I call bull-shit. I think he feels bad regarding the backlash he is receiving. I think he feels bad that he got caught, but truly, I don't believe for a second he regrets killing Cecil. In fact, this is not the first time this hunter/murderer has been in trouble for illegally killing animals. In 2008, Palmer plead guilty to a license violation after illegally murdering a black bear in Wisconsin. The bear was killed outside of the designated 'hunt area' by nearly 40 miles. One would think you would look at the permits for future hunts to ensure you are doing things legally and 'responsibly' after getting caught lying in 2008. Of course, I guess I can't expect much out of a small-minded, greedy individual like Palmer. 

In addition, the hunt was shady from the start. To begin with, Cecil lived in a protected park. He was in this park when the hunters found him and in order to lure him to an area where murder is more acceptable, they tied a carcass to their vehicle, and had Cecil follow them. Once he was out of the protected area, they then spotlighted him and Palmer shot him with a bow and arrow. 

Even if Palmer didn't know, the 'guides' should certainly have known who Cecil was. This gorgeous lion has been a local favorite for tours for the last 13 years. Cecil is well known not only in Zimbabwe, but all across the world and has brought countless tourists into the area. Cecil particularly enjoyed blocking the park roads by lounging in front of safari vehicles and posing for photos by tourists. With his thick black mane, Cecil is certainly recognizable, so there is absolutely NO EXCUSE for local hunters not to be familiar with this magnificent beast. 

Although he was shot, Cecil was not killed and for 40 torturous hours, the hunters tracked Cecil until they found him and fatally shot him with a gun. For 40 hours, one of the most beloved lions in Africa suffered at the hands of a greedy dentist who simply wanted another head to hang on his wall.  

Cecil's body was then skinned, his head was removed (and has not yet been found). It was at this point that the murderers realized they were screwed and found the GPS collar. Cecil, as part of the Oxford study, wore this collar and was constantly tracked as he went about his happy lion life. This collar told countless stories regarding Cecil's whereabouts, his hunting grounds, his living quarters and his favorite places to simply lounge around. The last report this collar sent in was a death report, showing where Cecil had been murdered. 

In a feeble attempt to hide their crimes, the murderers tried to destroy the collar and hide the remains. Fortunately, they were not successful and this evidence helped to identify the criminals. 

Cecil should have lived out his golden years with his pride, basking in the sun, enjoying his harem of lovely lionesses. Now, his head sits in hiding, a reminder of the despicable act committed by a small, greedy dentist.

While it is still undecided and up in the air regarding a punishment for the murderers, the world is watching and will never forget this beautiful animal. Cecil, on behalf of all humans - I am sorry. I am sorry that some people can't look beyond themselves, I am sorry that there are many other hunters that will continue to seek out animals as beautiful as you. I am sorry.

$5 from each Cecil tote sale will be donated
to wildlife conservation. 
As we mourn Cecil's loss, I am touched by the outpouring of support to the research center that studied Cecil and his pride for so many years. As they continue their research, so many individuals have donated to support continuing research for these animals. From the many celebrities that have spoken out for animals to the many animal lovers that are sharing and donating to the cause.. I just love seeing our animal loving community step in. While donations can never bring Cecil back, they can help countless animals in the future! As my own part, I will be donating a portion of every Cecil tote bag to help continue research for lions like Cecil.

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist