The son of Cecil the lion has reportedly been shot and killed by trophy hunters in Zimbabwe, nearly two years after his father ignited a global dialogue on trophy hunting when he was shot by dentist Walter Palmer.
The lion, Xanda, who was six years old with cubs of his own, met his demise when he wandered outside the legally protected confines of Hwange National Park. He was shot July 7, but the news became public Thursday.
While abhorred publicly, the African hunting industry is booming, with the number of lions killed tripling to 1,500 in the past decade. The guide for this hunt, Zimbabwean private hunter Richard Cooke, capitalizes on the lucrative industry by doing everything by the book, and funds from trophy hunting go toward protecting the entire species.
Xanda was wearing a GPS collar placed on him by scientists led by Andrew Loveridge at Oxford University, and even he conceded the importance of trophy hunting for the protection of African lions.
“I put the collar on Xanda last October and spent a bit of time following him around,” he said. “You have handled them so you feel a personal engagement with the animal. “Trophy hunting protects an area about the size of France and Spain combined in Africa. So if you throw trophy hunting out, what happens to all that habitat?”
He spoke to Cooke’s hunting ethics: “He is very ethical, he doesn’t cut corners. He has always communicated with us when he has hunted an animal and given us the collar back. He is not one of the fly-by-night guys.”
Loveridge was saddened by the fact Xanda was shot a mere 2km outside the park. He spoke about a 5km ‘no hunting’ zone bordering the park.
“It is something we have suggested for years,” he said. “But there is a lot of resistance because a lot of the hunting happens right on the boundary because that is where the animals are. The photo-tourism operators in Hwange are very keen to have that discussion. They are annoyed that this has happened.”
The global outcry is sure to be severe if Cecil’s death was any indication.
Philip Mansbridge, U.K. director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: “IFAW opposes the cruel and needless killing of wild animals for recreation and encourages enjoyment and appreciation of these magnificent animals within their natural habitats through sustainable eco-tourism opportunities. This has proven to be more beneficial for communities living with wildlife.”
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