Xanda, the son of Cecil the Lion, has been shot dead in a legal hunting safari in Zimbabwe.
Like his father, he had wandered out of the protected zone of the Hwange National Park and into Ngamo Forest, where the hunter subsequently shot him. Xanda was collared and monitored by researchers from Oxford University.
He was six.
Trophy hunting was thrown into the limelight when Dr Walter Palmer killed Cecil with a bow and arrow in July 2015. A worldwide furore was sparked, and the American dentist became the target of much vitriol. Palmer, however, was just one hunter of many.
The trophy hunting industry in Africa is said to be worth US $200 million, and has seen the importation of more than 1.2 million wildlife trophies from hunting safaris in a 10-year period in the United States alone.
The sport has been argued to contribute significantly towards conservation and national development. An Australian think-tank, Economists At Large, delivered a report showing otherwise — that the industry employs few and the revenue does not trickle-down to the local communities where the hunting occurs.
Economic arguments aside, as well as the frighteningly low numbers of lions left in the wild, the ethics appear to be lost in the dialogue; killing some to save some seems not to be the kind of discussion we, as progressive societies, usually have in the 21st century.
Instead, it represents a paradoxical stance, archaic perhaps — and effectively devalues the lives of animals by treating them as commodities in the name of ‘good’.
Secondly, shooting animals for sport is essentially destroying life for entertainment. How this can continue, especially with the already dwindling numbers of wildlife left on the planet, remains unanswered.
With fewer than 20,000 lions left in the wild, populations have fallen 43 percent within two decades — yet eight African countries continue to allow the export of lion trophies.
Importation, however, has been restricted. After Cecil’s death, the Australian and French governments banned lion trophy imports; the United States also banned lion trophy imports where its hunt fees are not directed towards conservation.
Meanwhile, the IUCN — the international organisation that classifies conservation statuses for species — supports trophy hunting. One of their guiding principles is:
“Well-managed trophy hunting can provide both revenue and incentives for people to conserve and restore wild populations, maintain areas of land for conservation, and protect wildlife from poaching.”
As long as trophy hunting remains legal and is supported by conservation leaders, we’ll no doubt be hearing more of these unnecessary and senseless deaths.
Rest in peace, Xanda and Cecil.