What sad news about Cecil, the magnificent, 14 year old, black-maned lion recently slaughtered on the border of Hwange National Park. What a wonderful beast he was. So many of us have loved or would have loved to encounter him on safari, and would have paid handsomely to do so. We would have paid to be there, watching him in his natural habitat, strolling through the stunning expanse of the National Park. And our money would have gone, in some part, towards his preservation and protection. Protection from illegal poachers, and from international hunters who pay ten times the price of a photographic safari to hunt and kill animals such as Cecil.
This story highlights the plight of a country still shattered by past politics, and of all African conservation. There is no way that Cecil, dearly beloved by guides and visitors to Hwange National Park, recently collared and tracked by wildlife experts, should have suffered such a pitiful end. But, for all those of you crying out against the dentist Dr Walter J Palmer, consider the real failing here. The failings of the conservation team who had collared Cecil, the failings of the National Park for lack of fencing, the failings of the hunting guides for allowing a (very wealthy!) American dentist shoot an ancient, collared lion.
We, better than anyone recognise the high price of African safaris is necessary to conserve and protect the wondrous glory of the natural world that we prize so highly. Safari costs continue to increase, and National Park fees rise in an attempt to allow us a vision of natural wildlife, in wide and unspoilt landscape. We put up with hunting concessions because we believe that the extraordinarily high price that the hunters pay must in part support wildlife conservation around it. The truth is that more needs to be done, to combat disturbing mistakes like this killing of beautiful old Cecil, and more extensively the horrendous poaching that is endemic and in many cases condoned by crooked government. How wonderful it would be if those who feel riled by the death of this old lion would be inclined to stand up and fight for the preservation of African landscapes, support wildlife conservation, pay the guides properly, boost awareness of the needs of the National Parks, rather than sending death threats and spitting venom on a (v wealthy) American dentist.