I don’t remember where this happened—presumably a museum of sorts. It had to have been in a public place for I was a child at the time and my family didn’t move in circles where one saw the heads of dead animals on wood-paneled walls in the bowels of private homes.
What I do remember is this: Walking into a large room, seeing strangeness on the walls, and being taken aback and repulsed. Surely, I told my juvenile self, those immobile heads of creatures with glazed, unseeing eyes could not be real.
But of course, they were.
The repulsion I felt then was nothing, however, compared to my outrage as I write now, having learned that Cecil, a magnificent adult male lion, has been killed by trophy hunters in Zimbabwe. This is not only repulsive; it's obscene … depraved … rapacious.
Not long ago, I spent a couple of weeks on a photo safari in that poverty-stricken country and its neighbors, Zambia and Botswana. As I’ve stated elsewhere on this site, I’m well aware on such a tour that I’m traveling in a bubble, insulated from the day-to-day struggles of the inhabitants. In Zimbabwe, however, when a village headman tells us his biggest problem is simply finding food for 400 villagers, the hard facts of existence break through.
I neither saw nor heard of Cecil on this trip, but the lions I did see, some of whom grace this page, only give me a deeper appreciation of his magnificence. (click here.)
I’ve heard the argument that the $50,000 (more or less; the figures vary) that the trophy hunter paid for his license to kill allegedly goes to conservation. Still ... the killing is the height of hubris. Apologists for legal trophy hunting point out that this horrendous kill was illegal. So? Cecil’s dead, nonetheless.
Sad enough that lions and other wild beasts are sometimes killed by the natives out of necessity—either to feed families or to protect livestock and crops—or both. That’s a matter of survival in this impoverished part of the world. But to kill just to bag a trophy to mount on a mansion wall? That’s loathsome. It should be illegal—all of it. Just sayin’.
scenes from our photo safari