In Honor of Cecil…En Honor de Cecil

None of the lions in my photos is Cecil. These photos were taken in Okavango Delta, Botswana.

Cecil was a 13-year-old male Southwest African lion (Panthera leo bleyenberghi) who primarily lived in the Hwange National Park in Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe. He was a major attraction at the park and was being studied and tracked by the University of Oxford as part of a larger study.

Cecil was shot by Walter Palmer, an American recreational big-game hunter, who had wounded him with an arrow from a crossbow. He was then tracked, and on 1 July 2015, approximately 40 hours later, he was killed with a rifle. The killing drew international media attention and sparked outrage among animal conservationists, politicians and celebrities, as well as a strong negative internet response against Palmer.

Cecil in 2010
Cecil—named after Cecil Rhodes—and another lion believed to be Cecil’s brother were noticed in Hwange National Park in 2008. In 2009, Cecil and his brother encountered an established pride, which resulted in a fight in which Cecil’s brother was killed and both Cecil and the leader of the pride were seriously wounded; the leader was subsequently killed by park rangers because of the wounds he had received in the fight with Cecil. Cecil retreated to another part of the park where he eventually established his own pride which had up to 22 members. In 2013, Cecil was forced out from the area by two young male lions into the eastern border of the park. There, he created a coalition with another male lion named Jericho to establish two prides which consisted of Cecil, Jericho, half a dozen females and up to a dozen cubs sired by Cecil or Jericho.

Cecil was the best-known animal in the national park and was identifiable by his black-fringed mane and a GPS tracking collar. The lions in the park, including Cecil, have been studied by scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University as part of a scientific project that has run since 1999, and his movements had been followed since 2008. Of the 62 lions tagged during the study period, 34 have died. One of the researchers on the project suggested that Cecil had become so popular because he was accustomed to people, allowing vehicles sometimes as close as 10 metres (33 ft), making it easy for tourists and researchers to photograph and observe him.

It is estimated there are between 25,000 and 30,000 lions alive in Africa. In 2013, 49 hunted lion carcasses were exported from Zimbabwe as trophies;the 2005-2008 Zimbabwe hunt “off-take” (licensed kills) average was 42 lions per year.

In June 2015, Walter Palmer, an American dentist and recreational game hunter from Minnesota,[18] reportedly paid US$50,000 to a professional hunter / guide, Theo Bronkhorst, to enable him to kill a lion. Cecil was allegedly lured out of the sanctuary where he was shot and wounded with an arrow from a crossbow. He was tracked, and approximately 40 hours later was killed with a rifle. He was then skinned and his head was removed. When his headless skeleton was found by park investigators, his tracking collar was missing.

On 28 July the UK’s The Daily Telegraph reported that independent sources had “seen a copy of the relevant hunting permit”.

Zimbabwe National Parks have stated that neither Bronkhorst nor the landowner, Honest Ndlovu, on whose property Cecil was believed to have been shot, had the appropriate permit for a lion. On 31 July 2015, Agence France Presse AFP reported that the Zimbabwean hunt guide, Bronkhorst, declared: “We had obtained the permit for bow hunting, we had obtained the permit for the lion from the council.” The two Zimbabweans were arrested by Zimbabwe police and accused of assisting Palmer in the killing. Palmer had already returned to the United States, where he issued a statement that he had “relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt” and “deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion”.

Reactions to killing

Activists add protest symbols to Palmer’s dental practice in Minnesota.
Cecil’s killing created an outrage among animal conservationists, prompted responses from politicians and many other people. A number of celebrities publicly condemned Cecil’s killing. Palmer received a flood of hate messages, and activists posted the dentist’s private details online.

The killing of Cecil sparked a discussion among conservation organisations about a proposal for bills banning imports of lion trophies to the U.S. and European Union as well as discussions about ethics and the business of big-game hunting, including calling African countries to ban bow hunting, lion baiting, and hunting from hunting blinds. Global media and social media reaction has resulted in close to 900,000 people signing online petition “Justice for Cecil”, which calls on Zimbabwe’s government to stop issuing hunting permits for endangered animals.

Safari Club International responded by suspending both Palmer’s and Bronkhorst’s memberships, stating that “those who intentionally take wildlife illegally should be prosecuted and punished to the maximum extent allowed by law.” Late-night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel helped raise $150,000 in donations in less than 24 hours to Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, which had been “responsible for tracking Cecil’s activity and location”.

In Zimbabwe
Cecil’s killing went largely unnoticed in the animal’s native Zimbabwe. The country’s The Chronicle newspaper wrote: “It is not an overstatement that almost 99.99 percent of Zimbabweans didn’t know about this animal until Monday. Now we have just learnt, thanks to the British media, that we had Africa’s most famous lion all along, an icon!” The BBC’s Farai Sevenzo wrote: “The lion’s death has not registered much with the locals”. At the same time, Zimbabwean officials stated that the killing of Cecil had already caused a drop in tourism revenues. A significant drop was noted in Hwange, where the lion had lived. Many international tourists, who had planned to see the lion, had cancelled their trips. “This killing is a huge loss to our tourism sector that was contributing immensely to the national wealth”, said Emanuel Fundira, the president of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe. “We had a lot of people, in terms of visitors, coming in to the country to enjoy and view Cecil, so really this was a great loss,” Fundira said, and that Cecil’s presence was “a draw card,” and compared his death to “the demise of an icon.” The head of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Karikoga Kaseke, said that tourism had been booming, but that Zimbabwe was now perceived as a country which was not interested in protecting and promoting animal rights, and this had also had a negative impact on the tourism sector.

Bryan Orford, a professional wildlife guide who worked in Hwange, calculates that with tourists from a single nearby lodge collectively paying U.S. $9,800 per day, the revenue generated by having Cecil’s photograph taken over five days would have been greater than someone paying a one-off fee of U.S. $45,000 to hunt and kill the lion, with no hope of future revenue.

On 1 August 2015, in response to Cecil’s killing, the hunting of lions, leopards and elephants along with all bow-hunting was immediately suspended in areas outside of Hwange National Park by Zimbabwe’s environment minister, Honorable Oppah Muchinguri. “All such 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 whose costs will be met by the landowner”, the minister confirmed in a statement to the press.

Government officials
Some high-level government officials publicly condemned the killing of Cecil. David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom told reporters that the United Kingdom plays “a leading role in preventing illegal wildlife trade”, when he was asked about Cecil’s death. His Africa Minister, Grant Shapps, described the incident as “barbaric hunting”.

U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum, co-chair of the United States Congressional International Conservation Caucus, called for an investigation of Palmer and the killing.

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez introduced the Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act, which “extend[s] the import and export protections for a species listed under the Endangered Species Act to those that have been proposed for listing, thereby prohibiting the import of any trophies gleaned from Cecil’s killing without explicitly obtaining a permit from the Secretary of the Interior.” The bill was cosponsored by Senators Cory Booker, Richard Blumenthal, and Ben Cardin.

On 30 July 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a non-binding resolution to strengthen the efforts to address illicit wildlife poaching and trafficking. Germany and Gabon were the sponsors of the resolution. Harald Braun, Germany’s U.N. Ambassador, linked the resolution to the killing and said: “Like most people in the world we are outraged at what happened to this poor lion.” Gabon’s Foreign Minister Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet said of Cecil’s killing as “a matter of deep concern for all countries in Africa”.

Zimbabwe’s acting information minister, Prisca Mupfumira, when questioned about Cecil’s killing, asked, “What lion?”

At a press conference on 31 July 2015, Zimbabwe’s environment minister, Opa Muchinguri, said the hunter broke Zimbabwean law and needs to be held accountable. “We are appealing to the responsible authorities for his extradition to Zimbabwe”. Muchinguri said in a press release that Palmer’s actions had tarnished the image of Zimbabwe and placed further strain on the relationship between Zimbabwe and the U.S. She called on all conservationists and animal lovers to provide resources to help tackle poaching and other environmental concerns in Zimbabwe.

Criminal investigations
On 7 July 2015 law enforcement officers of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority commenced an investigation after receiving information that a lion had been illegally killed on a farm near Hwange National Park. The investigation discovered that a lion had been illegally killed on the farm on 1 July 2015.

On 29 July 2015 Theo Bronkhorst appeared in court at Victoria Falls and was charged with poaching offences for not having the required hunting permit. He was granted bail at US$1,000 and was ordered to appear back in court on 5 August. Bronkhorst stated: “Palmer is a totally innocent party to this whole thing, and he has conducted and bought a hunt from me that was legitimate.” Separately, Ndlovu was charged with allowing an illegal hunt on his land. Zimbabwe National Parks spokespersons explained that lion hunting using firearms is legal, but it requires a permit and a quota which is assigned to a given area. However, this killing was illegal because it took place in an area that does not have a quota for lion kills. On 5 August 2015, Bronkhorst reappeared before magistrates charged with failing to prevent an illegal hunt. The case was adjourned until 28 September when Bronkhorst’s barrister was next available.

Walter Palmer left Zimbabwe for the United States after the hunt. He expressed deep regret for the killing, maintaining that he had relied on the expertise of the local professional guides to ensure that the hunt was legal. He indicated that he would cooperate with authorities in the investigation. On 30 July 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was looking for Palmer as part of its investigation. He contacted them voluntarily on the same day. On 31 July 2015, Zimbabwe officials said they initiated legal proceedings to extradite Palmer from the United States to face a charge, claiming that Palmer “had a well-orchestrated agenda which would tarnish the image of Zimbabwe”.

Consequences for the pride
When one or more new male lions oust or replace a previous male(s) associated with a pride, they often kill any existing young cubs, a form of infanticide. Initially, both the Oxford University study and Johnny Rodrigues, head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, indicated that they believed Cecil’s six cubs could be killed by the new dominant male in the pride. In a later interview, however, Rodrigues said Jericho had taken over the pride but had not killed Cecil’s cubs, and that he was also keeping the cubs safe from any rival males.

Ninguno de los leones en mis fotografías es Cecil. Estas fotos fueron tomadas en el Delta del Okabango, Botswana

La muerte de Cecil, el león africano abatido por un dentista norteamericano, ha conmocionado al mundo y ha causado gran repudio en las redes sociales. Este atentado contra la vida animal ha llegado a tal punto que artistas mundialmente reconocidos como Arnold Schwarzenegger y Jimmy Kimmel se pronunciaron al respecto.
En un video, Jimmy resume bastante bien todo el caso del asesinato del león Cecil. Todo aquel que ha visto algún programa de Jimmy sabe que la temática de su programa es netamente cómica; sin embargo la impotencia ante la muerte del animal hace que insulte al autor del asesinato, un dentista de Minnesota, y hasta se le quiebre la voz.
Kimmel cuenta que Cecil era un león de 13 años, que usaba un collar GPS de la universidad de Oxford que brindaba datos para estudios y que a inicios de julio fue asesinado como deporte por un cazador español. Al principio se sintió aliviado de que el asesino sea de España y no de Estados Unidos como siempre ocurre, sin embargo se entera de que fue un dentista de Minnesota que pagó 50 mil dólares para que el león sea llevado fuera del área ilegal y sea asesinado. En este útero estamos totalmente en contra del maltrato animal y de la caza furtiva de cualquier especie.
Su melena negra lo hacía reconocible a la distancia. En un articulo publicado por Miami Diario, podemos encontrar datos referentes a la vida de este león y las razones por las cuales se volvió una estrella local. Cecil era un león de trece años, semidomesticado, tranquilo y majestuoso. Era el preferido de los casi 50 mil turistas que visitan a diario el parque Hwange, en el oeste de Zimbabue, África.
En esta reserva nacional, Cecil había engendrado una docena de cachorros. La edad promedio de un león es de catorce años, por lo que Cecil, al momento de su cruel asesinato, ya se encontraba en los últimos momentos de su vida felina. No obstante, esto no justifica para nada la manera en la que fue asesinado. El investigador Brent Stapelkamp de la universidad de Oxford fue la última persona en fotografiar a Cecil con vida. Brent lo recuerda como un león que se desplazaba como todo un amo.
La población de leones en África, estimada en la actualidad entre treinta y treinta y cinco mil ejemplares, ha bajado un 30% según la organización ambientalista WWF. En Sudáfrica son pocos los leones que viven en estado salvaje, gran parte de ellos son criados en cautiverio para la caza y soltados a la naturaleza pocos días antes de su muerte.

El cruel asesinato
Según lo publicado por ZCTF (Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force), el león fue asesinado el 1 de julio y su cadáver fue hallado días después. Para poder sacar a Cecil del parque, un animal muerto fue atado a una camioneta y sirvió de cebo para atraer al león. Fue entonces cuando Palmer le disparó una flecha a pocos metros de distancia, la misma que no fue mortal por lo que Cecil huyó del lugar y estuvo agonizando durante cuarenta horas. Una vez fue hallado malherido por los cazadores, fue rematado con una pistola y su cabeza fue recortada, a modo de trofeo.
Una vez muerto, los cazadores intentaron destruir el collar de Oxford que llevaba el león, pero no pudieron hacerlo. El GPS fue el comprobante innegable del sufrimiento por el que tuvo que pasar el animal y la agonía que vivió durante casi dos días. La supuesta suma que habría pagado el dentista para poder cazarlo habría rondado los cincuenta mil dólares.

El cazador:
La página de dentistas River Bluff Dental brinda un poco de información respecto al cazador. Walter J. Palmer es un dentista graduado con honores en la Universidad de Minnesota, en 1987. El artículo lo describe como “poseedor de un talento único para crear sonrisas”, sin embargo, los propios vecinos de Walter lo retratan de una manera preocupante.
RPP publicó el día de ayer que el dentista quería mostrar la cabeza del león en un santuario especial donde guarda otras cincuenta cabezas de animales que incluyen alces, ciervos y osos polares. Incluso llegó a equipar la sala de exposición con una barra de bebidas donde se sienta a admirar su obra.
Sus vecinos lo retratan como un poco loco, afirman que ha sacado gente de su propiedad con arma en mano, se escabulle para sabotear a otros cazadores y acusa a otras personas de caza furtiva.
“Él tenía un cobertizo dentro de su propiedad que remodeló para convertirlo en un ‘santuario de caza’. Ahí guarda a todos sus muertos. Walter tiene todas las cabezas de los animales que ha cazado en esa casa, tiene todo allí. Me refiero a osos, alces, ciervos, animales de todo Estados Unidos y también tiene animales africanos. Es como un museo de animales muertos.” señaló un vecino al Daily Mail.
Reacción de la gente
El repudio por el dentista se evidencia en las redes sociales, en los diarios, en los noticieros y hasta en los late night shows americanos. Un grupo de manifestantes pacíficos llenó la puerta de su clínica con animales de peluche en señal de rechazo a sus actos.
“Púdrete en el infierno” dice en el cartel amarillo.
Incluso el mismísimo Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger publicó en su cuenta de Facebook su total rechazo ante la muerte de Cecil.
Se llegó a rumorear la muerte del hermano menor de Cecil, Jericó, sin embargo la ZCTF emitió un comunicado en el cual se desmiente lo dicho, afirmando que el hermano y sucesor de Cecil se encuentra en perfectas condiciones.
Enfrentarán cargos
El tema no queda como una lamentable muerte con licencia, como sucede mayormente en el caso de la tauromaquia. El servicio estadounidense de pesca y vida silvestre (USFWS), anunció que está investigando si la muerte del león fue parte de un acto ilegal y viola la ley de EE.UU. respecto al tráfico ilegal de fauna. Peor aun, se ha puesto en marcha una iniciativa ciudadana para que Palmer sea extraditado a Zimbabue.
Los dos sujetos que ayudaron a Palmer a “cazar” al león, se presentaron el miércoles en la corte de Zimbabue para enfrentar cargos. Theo es acusado de no impedir la cacería ilegal y Honest tendrá que responder por otros cargos. Mientras que Palmer se encuentra desaparecido.
Walter y su extradición
Según informa CNN, la ministra de Medio Ambiente de Zimbabue afirma que el dentista debe ser extraditado de vuelta por la caza ilegal de Cecil. Oppa Muchinguri dijo que los procedimientos de extradición comenzaron y que espera que Estados Unidos coopere. Por otro lado, son mas de 200,000 firmas las que ha recibido la Casa Blanca en su web para pedir la extradición de Palmer.
El senador norteamericano Robert Menendez, ha propuesto una nueva ley llamada “Ley Cecil”, que prohíbe a la gente llevar partes de animales como trofeos hacia los Estados Unidos. La ley busca detener estos actos y sancionar los mismos.
La polémica causada por este cazador aún sigue vigente ya que es un tema internacional y se ha creado una nueva polémica: ¿la caza legal sigue siendo válida? ¿resulta adecuado matar animales a pesar de contar con todas las licencias correspondientes? En el caso de Walter se sabe que hubo procedimientos saltados por parte de los cómplices para hacerse con el dinero de la caza y el propio Walter no hace más que defenderse de las acusaciones diciendo que desconoce haber realizado algún acto criminal. Pero será la corte americana quien pondrá fin a esta historia. Mientras tanto, Cecil sigue siendo recordado por todos aquellos que alguna vez tuvieron la oportunidad de conocerlo. Descansa en paz, Cecil.

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