"He was one of the most beautiful animals to look at." stated Johnny Rodrigues, head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force. Cecil, a gorgeous majestic male lion was well known by park guides and tourists for his demeanor and distinctive dark mane. After living in the national park for thirteen years Cecil was lured away from the protected grounds and viciously killed. Cecil was first injured with a bow and arrow and later found shot to death. According to the Zimbabwe Professional Hunter and Guides Association, bow hunting is permissible in private hunting concessions or communal hunting areas only but NEVER in a national park or government-controlled safari area. Zimbabwean conservationists have emphasized recently that hunting by bow and arrow is on the increase. Bow hunting is silent, allowing unethical or illegal hunting to go undetected by authorities.
American dentist and avid trophy hunter, Walter James Palmer from Eden Prairie, Minnesota is now being sought and held accountable for illegal hunting. In a statement he made to authorities earlier this week, Palmer said "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." The GPS collar which Cecil wore for research tracking purposes was destroyed before his beheaded remains were found.
According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, 60% of the African lion population has been destroyed in the last three decades alone. The poaching and trophy hunting deaths of lions, elephants, rhino's and tigers has reached critical levels. Trophy hunting and poaching are big business in Africa resulting in international crimes. Hunters will pay as much as $300,000 dollars to track and kill an animal with legal permits to make it appear an ethical sport. What most people, conservationists and animal advocates want to understand is- why? Unbridled greed, ego-driven violence and an arrogant photo opportunity seem senseless in the face of so many beautiful animals being endangered. Poaching contributes to the corruption and intimidation of government officials and local communities, increases the sale of illegal fire arms and drug distribution where the activities take place. Taking full responsibility for their part in cruel and pointless poaching crimes is long overdue for the United States. Laws need to change now.