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The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) has said in a statement that investigations into the death of Cecil the lion clearly demonstrate that the illegal killing was deliberate.

© Wikimedia
© Wikimedia

Theo Bronchorst of Bushman Safaris, the professional hunter that conducted the hunt for American dentist Walter Palmer, is facing criminal charges for allegedly killing Cecil on Antoinette farm in Gwayi Conservancy, Hwange district on 1 July 2015. According to statements released by the Zimparks, “It is alleged that the hunter connived with the Antoinette landowner, Mr Honest Trymore Ndlovu to kill the lion. Ongoing investigations to date, suggest that the killing of the lion was illegal since the landowner was not allocated a lion on his hunting quota for 2015.” Mr Honest Trymore Ndlovu was issued with a hunting quota for 2015.

The authority claims that the use of a bow and an arrow was used in order not to alert the rangers on patrol thus concealing the illegal hunt. Statements released by the authority go on to say, “From investigations carried out so far it shows that the whole poaching event was properly orchestrated and well-financed to make sure that it succeeds. The professional hunter, client and landowner were, therefore, all engaged in poaching of the lion.”

Brent Stapelkamp, field researcher for the Hwange Lion Research Project, had similar sentiments, stating that he doesn’t believe Palmer’s story that he trusted his professional guide to ensure a legal hunt. “He’s a well-educated man, he’s got a lot of resources,” Stapelkamp said. “You could do your homework. Due diligence. You would know that you’re hunting in a controversial area. You’ve got a GPS you could have in your pocket and you have a look at the map, and you say, ‘Listen friend, I think we’re in the wrong area.’ There’s no excuse. He came with the intention of getting the biggest lion that he could and getting out. And he got caught.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that it was investigating the circumstances surrounding the killing of Cecil. “That investigation will take us wherever the facts lead,” said Edward Grace, deputy chief of law enforcement at the agency. Safari Club International also issued a statement on their website saying that the club, “supports a full and thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe.” The club has suspended Water Palmer’s membership, pending the outcome of these investigations.

Media reports this weekend also alleged that Cecil’s brother, known as Jericho was killed by poachers but investigations have since established that Jericho is still alive and monitored by the lion research project in Hwange National Park who confirmed sighting Jericho at 7am on 2 August 2015.

Following the killing of Cecil the lion, the Government of Zimbabwe has directed Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to crack down and weed out any illegal hunting activities. These investigations have since unearthed another culprit, Headman Siband, owner of Nyala Safaris who conducted a hunt without a quota and permit in April 2015 for another American – namely Dr. Jan Casmir Sieski from Pennsylvania. Investigations into this hunt are also currently underway with Siband apparently communicating with police on the matter. Dr. Seski has been pictured online with a series of dead animals including elephants, hippos, zebras, ostriches, and water buffalo while an online hunting club claims he has killed six elephants.

Zimparks has also announced that the hunting of lions, leopards and elephants in areas surrounding Hwange National Park has been suspended. This includes bow hunting. Future hunts will only be conducted if confirmed and authorised in writing by the Director-General of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, and only if accompanied by parks staff.

Following this, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously adopted its first-ever resolution aimed at combatting illicit trafficking in wildlife on Thursday with Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Harald Braun stating, “I think like most people in the world we are outraged at what happened to this poor lion,” Braun said. “Hunting activities are partly legal, partly illegal. It is this resolution which fights all the illegal aspects of it.”

The Guardian also reported that MEPs are calling for the EU’s import ban on hunting trophies from certain countries to be extended to any African countries without independent, scientific data to show that lion hunting is sustainable. Catherine Bearder, a Liberal Democrat MEP submitted a written question to the European Commission on the issue, saying: “The shooting of Cecil the lion was tragic and cruel, but it has at least shone a spotlight on the absurdity of the current situation. Despite the number of lions across Africa plummeting in recent years, hunters are still allowed to import lion hunting trophies into the EU from several African countries.”

Keith Taylor, Green party MEP for south-east England, said he supported Bearder’s call for action. “It’s outrageous that lions are being killed just so someone in Europe can decorate their home with the body parts. The European Commission must immediately impose an EU ban on all imports of lion body parts,” he said.

Kenyan conservationist, Paula Kahumbu, writing for the Guardian echoed those statements saying, “There is no ecological justification for trophy hunting. Arguments can be made (but also disputed) in favour of hunting as a means of controlling populations of common animals such as deer. But trophy hunters are not interested in common animals; for them, the rarer the better. The ultimate, orgasmic experience for a trophy hunter would be to kill the last individual of a species. The idea that trophy hunting benefits African economies is also a myth – or more accurately a lie. Tourism is hugely important to African economies. For example, it generated direct incomes of $33.5 bn in sub-Saharan Africa in 2011, a figure expected to rise to almost $60 bn over the coming decade. By contrast, trophy hunting generates lots of money for a few people, most of whom are already rich. Even pro-hunting organizations have reported that only 3 percent of revenue from trophy hunting ever makes it to the communities affected by hunting.”

Miranda Gali, writing in an article for Youth 4 African Wildlife says, “Cecil is a great example of the inadequacies of the hunters that seek trophy kills. This is woefully inhumane and unethical. What Cecil’s death has done is finally brought the issues involving Africa’s precious wildlife into the public eye. For the first time in a while, many people have become receptive to the need for change and support in the protection strategies for cherished wildlife all over the world.”

But Rosie Cooney, chair of the IUCN’s Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy/Species Survival Commission Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group, issued a warning in her article on the matter: “Let us mourn Cecil, but be careful what we wish for.” She poses a scenario, imagining a future where all trophy hunting was banned, “The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, responsible for managing this park, derived most of its income for wildlife conservation across the country from trophy hunting. With minimal revenue from central government (not well known for its good governance and transparent resource allocation), it is now in trouble.”

An urgent meeting for all stakeholders involved in the hunting industry will take place at the Zimparks HQ at 10:00 on the 4th of August 2015.

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