Conservation charity calls for changes to international laws on hunting of endangered animals
A British charity is calling for a moratorium on trophy hunting after an American dentist was revealed as the killer of Zimbabwe’s most famous lion.
LionAid – a charity dedicated to saving lions across the word – said that while trophy hunting of lions was common, the current furore surrounding this killing opened up new avenues for debate.
Walter Palmer, from Minneapolis, paid a $55,000 bribe to wildlife guides to allow him to shoot the lion, named Cecil, with a crossbow before stalking the injured beast for a further two days.
The 13-year-old animal was found beheaded and skinned near the Hwange National Park, where he was beloved by tourists and local residents alike.
The hunter and accomplices are believed to have lured Cecil out of the protection of the national park using bait and shot him with the bow – a weapon favoured by hunters because it is silent allowing them to evade arrest.
It is completely legal to bait lions in Zimbabwe – it is standard practice
Since being identified, Palmer has received thousands of death threats, with Cecil’s killing becoming the biggest trending issue on social media all this week.
However, LionAid said while shooting such a well-known and popular lion was emotive, the fate of Cecil had to be taken in context and international laws allowing the killing of lions had to be changed.
“It is completely legal to bait lions in Zimbabwe – it is standard practice,” the charity said in a statement.
“Cecil was shot with a bow and arrow from a blind. That is also legal. Cecil was shot badly and was only put out of his misery 40 hours later. That is what happens regularly in trophy hunting.
“He was shot outside a national park in a private hunting concession. That is also legal. It is not illegal to kill radiocollared lions.
“But Cecil was shot in an area not assigned a lion quota. Supposedly the bait was set for a leopard and then Cecil came along.
“A client does what his professional hunter tells him. A client usually has no idea about the laws and regulations of the country he is hunting in – he just buys a safari and then places himself in the hands of his professional hunter guide.”
The charity is now calling for “a total moratorium on all lion trophy hunting imports into the EU from any African country.”
It also wants all African countries to immediately revise their land-use plans where hunting concessions border directly onto nationally protected areas.
It also calls for an an end to baiting of lions, hunting from blinds (effectively hides) and hunting with bow and arrow.
“So – let’s have Cecil become a real wakeup call to remind everyone about the nonsense that has permitted lion trophy hunting for far too long, and then to take a cold hard look at the entire concept of trophy hunting, sport hunting, and hunting for entertainment,” the statement added.
Emmanuel Fundira, president of Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, said the incident has affected Zimbabwe as the famous lion was generating money for the country.
It has since emerged the two guides who assisted Palmer have been arrested and face poaching charges.