Shortly after the killing of one of Africa’s most beloved lions and the international public outrage that followed, Zimbabwe officials have created new hunting restrictions in areas surrounding wildlife game reserves. The lion, known as Cecil, was killed last week by an American dentist after his hunting guides lured the beautiful creature out of a national park using bait. She was shot by bow and arrow and took over 40 hours to die. Zimbabwe now seeks for the extradition of the American dentist, Walter Palmer, from the United States. The White House says it will review the request.
The new hunting restrictions are focused on areas near Zimbabwe’s largest game preserve. Edson Chidziya, head of Zimbabwe’s parks and wildlife authority stated that, “Hunting of lions, leopards and elephants in areas outside of Hwange National Park has been suspended with immediate effect.” Officials have also suspended hunting with bows and arrows, except with permission from the head of the agency. Chidziya commented that, “All such [bow and arrow] 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.”
Chidziya stressed how serious the country was about curbing illegal hunting. The wildlife authority has joined forces with the police in a major crackdown “to weed out any undesirable elements . . .The Authority will not hesitate to arrest, prosecute and ban for life any persons including professional hunters, clients and landowners who are caught on the wrong side of the law.”
The outrage following Cecil’s death seems to be larger than life. Activists, conservationists and casual animal lovers everywhere have voiced their ire over social media, with some people calling for the dentist’s death. Others have inundated the dentist’s website with their scathing reviews, so much so that the site was taken offline. Palmer’s dental practice has been physically shut down for days, the front doors covered with signs of protest. Celebrities of all kinds have denounced Palmer’s actions and have called for greater protection of Africa’s wild animals. On his show, Jimmy Kimmel made a heartfelt plea to hunters everywhere to stop the act of killing defenseless animals.
There are those who believe hunting is important to Zimbabwe’s economy. Emmanuel Fundira, chairman of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, opined that his association could lose business as a result of the recent hunting ban, but added that such measures were necessary to protect Zimbabwe’s wildlife. He pointed out that "Hunting brings in no less than $40 million a year.”
One good thing has come from Cecil’s death, and that is the raising of people’s awareness about an important issue. Regardless of how one feels about hunting, the conversation and debate has been brought to the forefront.