“The revulsion about the lion Cecil’s death is an indication of changing times.” — Thom Hartmann
Walter Palmer, Minneapolis area dentist, paid some guides to tie a carcass to their vehicle to bait a protected lion, a beloved mascot for Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. He shined a spotlight on Cecil to shoot him at night, bow-hunting. What is not widely known by non-hunters is that bow-hunting, like trapping and hounding, causes an extremely cruel and torturous death. Palmer and his guides wounded the lion, but he was left to die slowly, killed 40 hours later by rifle. It is common once an animal has been wounded with an arrow to allow him or her to bleed out slowly, to weaken that animal for an easy kill a day or more later. Baiting, killing using lights, killing a father with a pride — this is extremely sick behavior. The Wisconsin DNR avidly promotes much of this in hunting, adding in packs of dogs, traps, and snares. Shining is not promoted, but there is little oversight.
Bow-hunting has not always been considered an ethical way to kill large animals. But now bow-hunting seasons are the longest in any hunting category. Deer season in Wisconsin was extended from nine days to four and a half months for bow-hunters.
“The 13-year-old big cat was known to the park’s visitors and seemingly enjoyed human contact, according to reports.” He brought in millions of wildlife watcher dollars annually.
Trophy hunters, as all hunters, kill under the guise of “conservation.” Rare and endangered species are highly prized. Hunters’ claims that “killing is for conservation” is like BP claiming that they devastate landscapes for oil to promote renewable energy. BP oil money goes into making more oil profits. Hunting money goes into providing more hunting targets, recruiting more hunters and trappers to keep their power base, and creating more hunting opportunities. The Pope and Young Club touts: “Components of the Club’s Conservation Program include wildlife research, education, pro-bow-hunting activities, partnerships, wildlife conservation projects and kids programs.” They are not conserving wildlife. They are conserving their killing access.
Jimmy Kimmel quipped that Palmer “has killed half of the animals that were on Noah’s Ark.” Learning to kill wildlife at age 5, he has killed all but one of the 34 species indigenous to North America measured by Pope and Young trophy killing standards. Palmer had a conviction for killing a black bear illegally in Wisconsin in 2008. The penalty was a paltry $3,000 and one-year probation. Head hunters like Palmer also travel to kill exotic species in other countries — even endangered species like the leopard and rhino he killed.
Ironically the skull-measuring and antler-points mentality is framed on the Pope and Young site as “a poignant opportunity to honor each individual outstanding big game animal, for posterity and throughout all of time.” Poignant: “keenly distressing to the feelings.” Poignant for whom? Certainly not the dead animal. Certainly not the braggart killer.
Johnny Rodrigues, head of Zimbabwe’s Conservation Task Force, said it is likely that Cecil’s 12 lion cubs have been killed by rival lions since Palmer killed Cecil on July 1: “When two males fight over a pride, the winner kills all the cubs and introduces his own bloodline.” Lack of funding and sanctuary for the cubs inhibit any action to save them.
The arrests of the local poachers hired by Palmer is unusual and due to negative publicity. Rodrigues said that 24 radio-collared lions have been lured from the park to be killed, adding, “Most of the hunters are unethical.”
Rodrigues says that a moratorium on all lion hunting is the only way to protect lions from extinction within a few decades, if not sooner. Fifteen lion breeders now breed lions for canned hunts in fenced enclosures.
The Born Free organization estimates that lion populations have declined from 80,000 in 1980 to 25,000 today. Killing this lion is proportionate to killing 400,000 humans out of a population of nearly 8 billion. The 12 cubs killed because of Cecil’s death compares to killing 5 million people and their potential offspring.
The goal to keep lions from extinction depends on putting high value on the remaining lions. With cheap poisons being used to protect cattle from lions, their lives depend on money getting to these farmers. Although hunters proclaim that trophy killing brings a high price, a 2013 analysis by Economists At Large exposes that only 3 percent of that money reaches communities adjacent to hunting grounds. Most of it goes to government agencies and elites in positions of power.
We are allowing the few to terrorize and kill dwindling wildlife on dwindling habitat. Ultimately it must be stopped by changing the funding of wildlife agencies to give a value to life, not death. Jeff Flocken from the International Fund for Animal Welfare is calling for protection of world wildlife, with even highly endangered species “being killed in mass numbers we have not seen in half a century.” He says that many buy package deals that are perfectly legal.
Brent Stapelkamp, researcher with the Oxford University lion project, working from his office in Hwange National Park, realized that Cecil’s radio collar had stopped transmitting data on July 3. The next day his team found Cecil’s carcass, stripped of his skin and beheaded.
He said that the one positive thing about Cecil’s death is that it will raise questions about conservation and hunting. “People have got away with so much nonsense, going on for years,” said Stapelkamp. “I have no faith in hunting and it needs to be cleaned up.”
“I was trained and taught that hunting was good for conservation.”
“But it is no longer the case.”
Sign the petition to help protect lions by putting them on the U.S. endangered species list.
Ban trophy lion body imports into the USA: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/516/100/136/ban-lion-trophy-imports-to-the-us/
Please network the column to network the petitions and raise awareness of the suffering caused by the massive expansion of killing, bow-hunting and trapping.
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