Although almost nobody had ever heard of Cecil, the lion of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, the whole world was appalled to learn that this animal was murdered by serial killer Walter Palmer. Palmer, who considers himself a skilled ‘sport hunter’, only wounded the animal with his arrow and let it suffer for 40 hours before it was finally killed, skinned and decapitated. His remains were left to rot; that is what this ‘sport’ is all about.

This incident highlights the problem of trophy hunting in Africa. On the one hand, it has been scientifically proven that hunting can indeed help conservation. Trophy hunting usually takes place on marginal lands, unsuitable for photo safaris. Hunters pay huge amounts of money for the privilege to murder an animal, and that’s the only way that wildlife can be profitable on these lands. Without hunting this wildlife would be lost to poachers or encroaching human settlements. Africa is losing its lions fast, but trophy hunting is not the reason. On the contrary, controlled hunting does indeed support conservation, just like trophy hunters claim.

The problem is however that conservation is only a side-effect. The hunters obviously use it as the perfect excuse to justify their killings, but that is not why they kill lions. If it was, there would be no interest in ‘canned hunting’ (hunting of lions which are specially bred for this purpose, a big industry in South Africa). No, hunters kill lions because they feel the same urges as Ted Bundy; they just choose different victims than Ted did. Cecil was protected by the law in Zimbabwe. There are strict rules about which animal can be killed and how many can be killed each year. And baiting a lion, which happened in this case, is always illegal. But as long as African countries are riddled with corruption, and wealthy people think that money buys everything, there will always be incidents like these. The real problem is not hunting, but the mentality of the hunters.


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