Cecil the lion was a popular and well loved attraction in a protected area in Hwange in Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, Cecil no longer lives due to the callous actions of a hunter.
Or so it is made to appear.
Some of the details are yet to surface as of the time of this writing, so I can only go on what I have been able to read and deduce up to this point. As with anything, I encourage any that are interested in a story to thoroughly check things out themselves while making a decision on what to believe and not believe.
I have some second hand experience on African style hunts, mainly through my grandfather’s many overseas adventures. In fact, my grandfather hunted Zimbabwe (as both Zimbabwe and it’s former name Rhodesia) several times.
A typical African hunt consists of a professional hunter (called a PH) and hunting guides to assist a hunter who pays for the taking of an animal. The price tags are different based on the animal. An animal considered part of the Big Five (lion, elephant, rhinoceros, leopard, and cape buffalo) carry a premium and are often considered once in a lifetime hunts and the pinnacle of the African hunts. Papa was able to take each of the Big Five other than the lion.
Sometimes there is a reference to the Dangerous Six or the Big Six which includes one of Africa’s most dangerous animals, the hippopotamus. Taking each of the five or six animals is one of the greatest accomplishments of hunting Africa, if not the world.
Papa (the name given to my grandfather by all of us grandkids) once went out with a PH hunting a big cat. A male lion is difficult to hunt due mostly to finding one that would make a nice trophy. The mane is not always as beautiful and flowing as the talking lion in the grocery store commercials. Many times it is matted beyond repair or control, missing large chunks, or just ugly. Otherwise, a lion is a lion, laying around and doing little, especially the males.
The female does most of the work, while the alpha male hangs around to show he is boss. As with many species in which there is an alpha, if he dies, the new alpha will kill or run off any offspring from the deceased alpha. But, back to the story at hand.
Papa was hunting a big cat. After a long walk through the brush, the PH stopped Papa.
“Shhh. Can you hear that?”
Papa couldn’t hear anything. “I think there is one nearby. I can hear him breathing. Stay here,” the PH parlayed.
Papa was a wise man. Very wise. He only had a sixth grade education, but owned a very successful business and a sharp mind. He had hunted beasts throughout the world at this point, and had hunted Africa many times as well. Something didn’t seem right.
Papa continued forward anyway. He then noticed what he was beginning to suspect. In a cage, behind some large bushes, was a lion. Beside the cage were a couple of the PH’s guides waiting for the signal to release the lion. Papa refused to continue the hunt and flew back to the states.
But Papa was savvy. And even though Papa had hunted Africa many times, I cannot tell you for sure he would know certain boundaries in Africa. You have to rely on those in the know to a certain extent. I think this is what will end up being the issue with Cecil.
A dentist has now lost his practice due to death threats and constant protests after obtaining the proper permits to hunt what he thought was a legal hunt. He confesses he was lead astray unknowingly. The PH on the other hand has been called to court, and released on bail. Others in the party are also being questioned and held by the Zimbabwe government as the investigation continues forward.
As of this point, the hunter has not been called to question. Could the hunter have known he was doing something illegal? Sure. Did he? Time will tell. But I can say one thing that is almost a certainty. A hunter hates a poacher. We may very well find out the hunter was not the poacher, but instead was led by poachers unsuspectingly.