OPINION — It was not a pleasant end for Cecil, a 13-year-old Southwest African lion that was recently killed by a dentist from Minnesota with more money than heart just outside of the Hwange National Park in Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe.
This magnificent creature was a favorite of tourists to the park, his black-fringed mane easily separating him from the others.
He had been through a lot in establishing his pride in a corner of the park.
He wore a GPS tracking collar so the scientists could more easily track his movements.
He was friendly, well, at least tolerant, allowing tourists to drive within 30 feet of where he would rest.
But, a month ago, Cecil was lured from the park. Once outside the protection of the facility, Cecil was at the mercy of Walter Palmer, a Minnesota dentist who says he paid $50,000 for a permit to kill a lion.
Palmer, who considers himself a big-game hunter, teed up an arrow and let it fly.
The arrow hit Cecil, but Palmer missed the kill zone.
Forty hours later, Palmer and his guides found the wounded Cecil and killed him with a single gunshot. They skinned him, took his head and left his remains for the buzzards.
In the bloody aftermath, the regulating council of the Zimbabwe National Parks said that the proper permits were not acquired by Palmer, his guides and the property owner of where Cecil was shot.
Palmer, meanwhile, was back in the cozy confines of Minnesota when it all went down and two of the guides in the hunting party were arrested by Zimbabwe officials.
Those confines have become a little less cozy for Palmer, who was forced to close his business and lay low since the incident hit the Internet.
In other words, he ran and hid, an option that was not open to Cecil, by the way.
Before you go all wonkie, understand that I have nothing against the good and ethical hunters who take to the field each year in pursuit of game that they intend to use in a productive way.
You want to go after an elk?
But, respect that animal before you drop the hammer.
Make a quick, clean kill.
Ensure you treat it with the dignity it deserves.
If you wish to display the antlers, that’s fine. Just don’t cut the head and cape and leave the remains behind. Feed your family, your friends, but do not waste that animal’s life simply to put a trophy on the wall.
I’ve known a lot of hunters over the years. I’ve been out in the field with some of them. I don’t know of a one who ever took a low-percentage shot that had a higher probability of wounding, rather than killing, their prey.
Believe me, I understand how difficult it can be to hunt. I was, truth be told, a terrible hunter. As I learned, you don’t just go out, pull the truck over, squeeze off a round at Bambi standing just off the road and go home.
It is work, hard work, as it should be.
I also understand that may people are totally turned off by the thought of the hunt.
And, if that is your belief, that is fine.
But, while I can make a sound case for those hunters who are out to put meat on the table in a most traditional way, there is no way I can justify taking an animal’s life to simply put a trophy on the wall.
It is unconscionable.
Now before you get into the whole “thinning of the herd” business, realize that there are only 25,000 to 30,000 lions in Africa.
Thinning that herd is not necessary.
Besides, if that’s the case, the planet is severely over-populated with humans.
Should we thin the human species?
I think not.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the circumstances surrounding the lion’s killing, according to a CNN report.
“At this point in time, however, multiple efforts to contact Dr. Walter Palmer have been unsuccessful. We ask that Dr. Palmer or his representative contact us immediately,” said Edward Grace, the service’s deputy chief of law enforcement.
Palmer has yet to respond, according to reports.
Cecil’s slaying also prompted the United Nations General Assembly to pass a resolution it had been working on for two years that calls on all countries to crack down on illegal wildlife trafficking and poaching.
International response could best be summed up in a statement released by Harald Braun, Germany’s ambassador to the United Nations, who told reporters: “I think, like most people in the world, we are outraged at what happened to this poor lion.”
And, closer to home, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton also weighed in.
“I’m just so disgusted with that man,” Dayton said. “Shoot any lion but lure a lion like that out of the preserve and shoot him, how could anybody think that’s sport? Just appalling.”
We are fast coming up on the bow season for elk and deer in Utah.
I am hopeful it is a safe and productive hunt.
I am also hopeful that the hunters who take to the field are mindful of exactly what they are doing and treat the animals they encounter, take aim at and kill, with the respect they deserve.
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Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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