Lion Item: Cecil the Fundraiser

Cecil’s death has already resulted in donations of more than $780,000 to the team at Oxford University that was studying him. (American philanthropists Tom and Daphne Kaplan also gave a matching pledge of $100,000.) Researchers at Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit said today the money would help them study lions not only in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, where Cecil lived, but also in adjoining countries.

Killing lions isn’t illegal, and, as we noted yesterday, 11 African countries, including Zimbabwe, issue permits for their hunting. Indeed, some hunters argue that trophy hunting actually helps conservation, by providing tens of thousands of dollars per permit to countries that otherwise lack the resources to protect wildlife. On that note, a reader flags this op-ed from Kennedy Mavhumashava of The Bulawayo Chronicle, a newspaper in Zimbabwe:

If the killing of Cecil, which happened outside the Park’s boundaries, is found to be illegal, let the chips fall where they may. But I find the western outrage over the demise of Cecil, which is only a lion to many of us, suspicious.

This was a simple hunt and Zimbabwe wants more of them to generate revenue for our tourism sector. It is not an overstatement that almost 99,99 percent of Zimbabweans didn’t know about this animal until Monday. Now we have just learnt, thanks to the British media, that we had Africa’s most famous lion all along, an icon!

Zimbabweans are rightly outraged though about this specific hunt, not because of the suspect Anglo-Saxon response to it, but because of information released by prosecutors that the cat was not listed on safari farmer, Honest Trymore Ndlovu’s hunting quota for this year. This renders the killing a poaching incident which must be condemned.

But the Western media’s obsession with Cecil gets us thinking. Why only him? What’s going on?

Yet in the cloud of suspicion and overreaction, it is also true Zimbabwe can make profit out of this incident. The world must know we have tens of thousands of Cecils, only they are not wearing collars, and are not named after colonialists.

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