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Sun, April 21

Editorial: Cecil - Lessons to be learned?

Paula French via AP<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 --><br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->In this image taken from a November 2012 video made available by Paula French, a well-known, protected lion known as Cecil strolls around in Hwange National Park, in Hwange, Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s wildlife minister says extradition is being sought for Walter Palmer, the American dentist who killed Cecil.

Paula French via AP<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 --><br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->In this image taken from a November 2012 video made available by Paula French, a well-known, protected lion known as Cecil strolls around in Hwange National Park, in Hwange, Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s wildlife minister says extradition is being sought for Walter Palmer, the American dentist who killed Cecil.

From work lunches to webinars, everywhere I've been this week, someone has mentioned Cecil, the lion at the heart of the hunting outrage streaking across the globe.

I've tried hard to not watch the news when they show photos of the lion and discuss the case. Mainly because, as my husband can attest, I'm a big old softie who cries at a touching commercial. It's my Hallmark card reflex, I guess.

However, because Cecil and his fate are all over social media and my television, I did hear this weekend that Zimbabwe suspended the hunting of lions, leopards and elephants in the area where Cecil was killed. The officials there are also investigating the killing of another lion in April that may have been illegal.

If nothing else, Cecil's untimely death has put illegal trophy hunts in the news in a big way. I hope with all of the exposure, this practice - and the practioners - become extinct.

I'm not naïve enough to think it'll completely go away, but I've personally never understood trophy hunting. I've always felt a bit weird when in someone's house where animal heads adorn the walls.

I come from a family of deer hunters back East. The deer meat fills the freezers of many folks who can't afford to stock enough meat for a winter. Hunting is a tradition, a right of passage and a necessity.

However, trophy hunting exotic animals has no place in our educated world. The era of the obnoxious, rich, white hunter traveling into the deepest parts of Africa should be over, but apparently it is not.

The money is an enormous player in trophy hunting, of course. Many safari operators have been rumored to promise a trophy kill. That explains luring a huge, easy target like Cecil out of his protected park.

Emmanuel Fundira, chairman of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, said his association could lose business as a result of the new hunting ban, but added that the measures were necessary to protect wildlife.

"Hunting brings in no less than $40 million a year," he said.

That's a huge chunk of cash flowing into the country's economy, but I believe Cecil's demise will now keep the spotlight on illegal trophy hunting.

The story isn't over, not by a long, long shot. There is talk of extradition of the hunter/dentist, a trial and more. I'll be interested to see if after all the hype dies down, if any real changes to Zimbabwe's hunting comes to fruition.

If you need the carcass of beautiful animal mounted in your home to validate yourself, you have my pity.

- Robin Layton, editor

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