Cecil the Lion “What was illegal about the hunt” – the debate continues

On the 10 June, this year, we posted an article The Truth Behind Cecil the Lion on our blog and Facebook page. Our Facebook fans commented in a robust manner. But it seems that the debate is still continuing because yesterday we received this comment/question by Guy Pearson What was illegal about the hunt?

Here is the link to the original The Truth Behind Cecil the Lion article.

“First, there was no hunting quota on lions this year in the Gwaai area. The minimum age of lion that can be hunted is six years. Last year in 2014 only one lion out of the five shot in the area was above the age of six. One of those lions was just 2 years old. So this year, the hunters were penalised, and the quota was removed from the landowners. Cecil was supposed to be 100% safe because there was no lion hunting allowed this year.

Second, the Zimbabwe law says that if you’re hunting a lion you must have a parks ranger with you. There was no parks ranger present.

Third, the hunter shot Cecil with a compound bow. The law says you must have a special permit for that, as well as ranger present on a bow hunt.

Fourth, the hunt permit was bought on a quota swap, which is illegal. The hunting operator bought the permit from an area elsewhere in the country, which had no lions. Then he came to the area next to Hwange and hunted Cecil with an illegal permit.

Fifth, there were no hunt return forms, no tax invoice, and no one in an official position in parks knew they were hunting – all of which is illegal.”

Here is my reply to Guy’s answer to the question.

Mr Pearson,

I would like to have had an appreciation of where your sentiments lie with regard to controversial wildlife management issues – and to know something of your background –  before writing this reply to your letter, because it is full of anger and underlying innuendoes that puzzle me.
The TGA does its best to tell our supporters the truth. And the truth about Cecil that we broadcast, came from a WILDCRU report (written by the Oxford University Research team doing the research on Hwange’s lions) – which was itself reported upon by John Jackson III of the US-based “Conservation Force”. John Jackson is a much-respected lawyer and a highly experienced gentleman in wildlife management affairs in Africa.  He would never intentionally tell a lie.   And with respect to Cecil’s particular circumstances, he has had a particular interest for a very long time.

He claims, for example, to: “have made an in-person appeal to the conservancy land owners adjoining the (Hwange national) park to take down live-stock fences, eliminate the cattle, and let the lions grow to be more valuable trophies.” And he says of this recommendation that: “But for that approach, Cecil may never have been born and surely would not have lived to a scruffy old 13 years of age”. He goes on to say that: “following the suggested changes, the lion population of Hwange increased from 300-400 to 800, with a growing ‘resident population’ outside the park boundaries at the time Cecil was taken. His report confirms that many things that were reported about Cecil’s demise were untrue.  But we have covered all this before…. But let’s go over the basics one more time.

Cecil was NOT “lured” out of Hwange National Park on a bait-drag as many animal rightist NGOs have contended.  You know, people who hate the idea of anybody “hunting” (any animal) will go to great extremes to denigrate hunters!  And what they don’t know they will surmise or fabricate!

According to the research team, Cecil had been resident on the land where he was shot, for three months (April, May and June 2015) prior to him being hunted.  The ranch where the hunt took place was part of his natural “home-range”.

My information is that he was alone all this time; and he was alone when he was killed. All this tells me that he had almost certainly been recently deposed by a stronger and younger male.

This probability has been carefully avoided by everyone – but it is an important part of the story.  He was not, therefore, a dominant breeding male any more, who was essential to the genetic well-being of Hwange’s lions (as many people contended).   He had done his bit, genetically, for Hwange’s lions a long time before.

When he was shot he was an ageing nomad (13 years is a long time for a male lion to live) – without a territory – and he was totally surplus to the lion population of Hwange.  He was a collared lion – as were 45 out of 65 other lions that had been shot outside Hwange in the last 10 years – and the hunting of these deposed lions was part of the research strategy.  The WILDCRU team admit that Cecil was not poached – and THAT is the main issue we should be concerned about.  And the Zimbabwean Minister of the environment – when she was asked why Cecil’s hunter was not prosecuted – is on record as saying: “He was not prosecuted because his papers were all in order.”  So what more information do we need?

As to your allegations of misconduct during this hunt, I cannot comment.  I actually don’t know if you are right or wrong.  At the same time I have to admit that you may be right in all (or some) of your contentions.  But in the main, the hunt itself was legal.

T.I.A.  This is Africa.  A great many decisions that are made in African capital city offices are not always religiously followed by hard-working practitioners when they are deep in the bush trying to put a complicated hunt together.  By saying that, I don’t in anyway condone such behaviour – but such misdemeanours happen.

And if such irregularities took place during Cecil’s hunt then those people who committed them should be prosecuted.  Compared to the main event – the enactment of the hunt – however, none of those crimes can be attributed to the visiting American hunter – who possessed and had paid for a legal licence; who employed a properly licensed professional hunter; who did everything that he was told to do by the landowner and his guide; who was taken by the hand to where the hunt was to take place by the people who he believed “knew the ropes”; and he had executed the hunt as his guiding principals determined.  Ipso facto, the hunt itself was legal and the hunter is blameless!

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