The Internet is blowing up over the death of a 13-year-old lion named Cecil, who lived in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe and was considered a local favourite.
The viral outrage began on Tuesday when Zimbabwe officials announced that they were investigating an American’s involvement in Cecil’s death.
That American is Walter James Palmer who is a dentist in Eden Praire, Minnesota, and admits to killing the lion but defends his actions as being perfectly legal. Zimbabwe officials, however, allege that the act was anything but.
“To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted,” Palmer said in a statement on Tuesday.
Whether Palmer’s actions were legal or not isn’t the point, according to Eric Jensen, an internationally recognised expert on public engagement with wildlife from the University of Warwick.
“It is remarkable that this dentist thinks the core problem is that there may be legal trouble caused by shooting Cecil the lion,” Jensen told Business Insider in an email.
And it’s this kind of incentive that is the “global failure” driving this sort of “unthinkable” behaviour, says Jensen:
“The global failure to effectively support sub-Saharan Africa in terms of providing a basic level of economic opportunity directly connects to problems of wildlife poaching both for local consumption as food and for export to wealthy customers outside of Africa.
At the same time, the very fact that there is any interest in killing these animals amongst wealthy visitors suggests that there still needs to be a major change in how animals are viewed. As long as animals are viewed as just instruments to serve human purposes, with no intrinsic value as living creatures, it is not a great step to think it is ok to kill a lion if it makes you feel masculine or powerful.”
What’s more, is now that Cecil is dead, his cubs could be fatal danger:
“The saddest part of all is that, now that Cecil is dead, the next lion in the hierarchy, Jericho will most likely kill all Cecil’s cubs so that he can insert his own bloodline into the females,” Rodrigues told CNN. “This is standard procedure for lions.”
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