Much has been written about Cecil the lion these last three days, enough to make that dead sidewalk raccoon seem like a ghost of a memory. But as the story grows to a fever pitch, the tales of this noble lion and the wicked dentist who shot him grow as well.
But who was Cecil really? And why does he matter suddenly so much? Well, we’re glad you asked. To hear the internet tell it, he stood tall and majestic, had a mane as black as night and loved everyone he ever met. As a result, many documentaries were made about him, tourism thrived in Zimbabwe because he existed and everything seemed a bit more colorful when he was around. Of course that’s just a bit of hyperbole, but the internet’s bloodlust must be slaked. And they have their eyes set on the admitted killer — a dentist and avid sport hunter from Wisconsin named Walter Palmer. Imagine how many other dentists are having to make nervous jokes about how they didn’t kill any lions right now.
Such has been the outcry against the man, who paid $50,000 for a permit to hunt a lion in Zimbabwe, that the dentist has gone into hiding while the internet demands that he be tracked down and shot as well. Especially because, as the legend of Cecil now goes, Palmer and his Zimbabwe-based guide, Theo Bronkhorst, used an animal carcass to lure Cecil out of a protected animal sanctuary in order to kill him. The man whose land they used when first wounding Cecil with a bow and arrow, Honest Ndlovu, has also been pulled into the ordeal and he and Bronkhorst have already been arrested, charged and released on bail. A petition has been circulating in the interim that would have the U.S. government sent Walter Palmer back to Africa to stand charges of poaching — for which he could spend 15 years in jail. It already has over 100,000 signatures on it.
Incidentally, Cecil, who was named after Cecil Rhodes, a businessman credited with the naming of Zimbabwe’s original region Rhodesia, was part of a scientific study dating back to 2008, in which he was tagged with a GPS tracking collar for observation. Perhaps most damning of all to Walter Palmer and his cohorts was that the tracking device was not with the carcass, which was discovered after the full story came to light. As in, they knew they killed a protected lion and allegedly disposed of the tracking device to hide their misdeeds. After wounding Cecil, the hunters then tracked him for two days, following the blood trail, found him and shot him with a rifle. He was then skinned and beheaded.
The government of Zimbabwe has since seized Cecil’s head and called for Palmer to stand trial for his part in the killing. But that’s if the internet doesn’t hunt the dentist down first. A new push has been made to “out” other big game hunters who kill for sport, which include Donald Trump’s sons, Ted Nugent and country music singer Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry, who was once penalized for shooting a bear in a cage and then claiming it was in the wild.
The big fear now is for Cecil’s two male cubs, who park rangers are saying will likely be killed by the pride’s new alpha male. As more celebrities come out against the act of big game hunting and the internet screams that Palmer should have his head cut off as well and have destroyed his business’ credibility on Yelp, it’s clear now how much impact Disney movies have had on forming our views of nature.
We really are a genteel bunch, aren’t we? Or maybe we just like to be angry all the time? Whatever the case may be, Walter Palmer is currently the most hated man in America right now. That has to be great news for all the people who’ve been arrested for killing fellow humans this week.