Response to Oxford Researcher Brent Stapelkamp’s Video Stating: Cecil’s Hunt Illegal

The original information – for my posting of “The Truth about Cecil the Lion” – came from a man called Cliff Tulpa with whom I communicate on an irregular basis. In my dealings with him I have found him to be honest and truthful in all things. He is the producer and host of the American award-winning television series, “Cliffs Wild Outdoor Adventures”. Cliff Tulpa’s source of reference was an article entitled Scientists disclose Cecil not lured from the park and was in his home range outside the park when hunted. It was written by John J. Jackson III, Chairman and President of a very reputable and world-renowned organisation called “Conservation Force”. John Jackson is a lawyer and based in the United States. His Cecil article was posted in June 2016.

This is what John Jackson wrote:

Quote: WILDCRU, The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit based at Oxford University that collared and satellite tracked Cecil, has just published an article revealing that Cecil was not lured out of the Hwange National Park by Dr. Palmer and/or his PH. It also discloses that Cecil was in a core area he occupied outside of the park when hunted. The lion’s home range was far outside of the park.

To quote the article by David W. Macdonald, et al. Cecil: A Moment or a Movement? Analysis of Media Coverage of the Death of a Lion, Panthera Leo. Animals 2016, 6, 26; doc: 10.3392, the lion had been collared and satellite tracked since 2009. Cecil was one of “65 lions that were hunted on the land surrounding the Protected Area, 45 of them were equipped with tracking devices.”

“It was reported (incorrectly) to have been lured by bait out of the park…” The lion was hunted on bait out of the park. (NOTE) The lion was hunted on a bait (YES), but not lured from the park as some media accounts have implied; the area was part of the lion’s normal range. The ranch where the hunt took place was within the “home range” of the lion during the prior months (April, May, June) until arrowed July 1st at approximately 22:00. The hunt finished “approximately 250 m from where he was initially wounded.” That was 9 am the next morning.

Analysis: The lion’s “home range” from April until hunted on July 1 was as much outside of the park as in the park. He was not “lured out of the park by dragging bait from the park…” That was wholly fabricated in the early reports and continues to be misrepresented today. That inflammatory fabrication was heightened by other false reports that are not noted in the article. One media source was threatened with government sanctions for misrepresentations. Another story about the killing of Jericho, “Cecil’s Brother” by another hunter within the park, was also wholly concocted. Jericho was not the brother of Cecil. Jericho was not killed at all, and therefore not “killed by a hunter in the park.”

The false report that one of Cecil’s cubs had been killed was also alarming. The cub was not likely to have been Cecil’s and still survives today.

There was the suggestion by all that the killing of a collared lion was in itself illegal. Not so; most lion taken for over a decade in the area were collared, 45 of the 65. One of the purposes of the collaring research was to determine the causes of the mortality of the pride lion.

Editorial and social media both carried the message that lion were in danger of extinction. Not true by any stretch of the imagination. The lion (HUNTING) quota was extremely low, cautionary, and scientifically based. The local communities and hunting operators had been incentivized by the safari hunting revenue to shepherd the lion as potential trophies instead of livestock-eating vermin. Yours truly had made an in-person appeal to the conservancy land owners adjoining the park to take down the livestock fences, eliminate the cattle, and let the lions grow to be more valuable trophies. But for that approach Cecil may have never been born, and surely would not have lived to a scruffy old 13 years of age. Following the suggested changes, the lion population in the park increased from 300-400 to 800 with a growing “resident population” outside of the park boundaries at the time Cecil was taken.

There should no longer be any doubt that fabrications, apparent illegality, and ignorance made “a perfect storm” that otherwise would not have been a rational reaction. Let’s hope that lion conservation and the good people that must tolerate lion don’t bear the costs of the fabricated storytelling.” UNQUOTE:

May I remind you that John Jackson III is a much respected lawyer; and it would destroy his professional reputation to fabricate anything that could be proved to be untruthful.

I must now comment on the YouTube video, made by Brent Staplekamp, that has been introduced as a rebuttal to the TGA standpoint about “the truth” concerning the hunting of Cecil the Lion. That video was released on 1st October 2016 – 16 months after Cecil was hunted.

Staplekamp is one of the Oxford University team that is studying the lions of Hwange. He had been following the movements of the lions that he and his team had collared – including Cecil. In the video, Staplekamp points out many irregularities in the Cecil hunt – mostly due to improper or apparently non-existent paperwork. He also alleged – a much more damning accusation – that Cecil’s collar was destroyed several days after the hunt had been concluded – something that cannot be condoned – if it is true. As a consequence of these irregularities, he claims that the hunt had been “illegal”. Therefore, Cecil had been “poached”!

As a long term inhabitant of Africa (and having grown up and worked half my adult life in Rhodesia-now-Zimbabwe) I don’t doubt that much of what Staplekamp said was true. But – IF there were any serious irregularities – the visiting hunter, Walter Palmer, was not the guilty party. Palmer was required to conduct his hunt according to the guidance given to him by his professional hunter and the owner of the property on which the lion was killed. And neither of them were prosecuted for any kind of misconduct. The police found no grounds to charge them! And Zimbabwe’s Environment Minister, Oppah Muchinguri, has stated that Walter Palmer could not be prosecuted because “all his papers were in order.”

These facts cast serious doubt on Staplekamps’ video statements.

And one must question why Staplekamp disagreed so vehemently with the report published by his academic superiors in Oxford; and why he took so long (16 months) to make his personal grievances public? If he felt so upset about the irregularities that he cited, why didn’t he go public at the time that Cecil was hunted? Why did he wait until October 1st 2016? What was so special about that date?

October 1st 2016 was, in fact, right in the middle of the CITES (Cop17) convention – held in Johannesburg South Africa. He couldn’t have picked a more perspicacious period in which to make his announcement – IF his purpose was to denigrate hunting (which appears to be the case). And it is probably not such a coincidence that the second half of the YouTube release was taken up by Will Travers, President of the Born Free Foundation, who thoroughly denounced lion hunting at CITES.

And I am not about to tell you what went through my mind when I started putting two and two together!

Ron Thomson

I am NOT a ‘trophy hunter’ - and never have been. I am not involved in the trophy hunting safari business. I am also not a game rancher. But I have ‘administratively controlled’ professional hunters and safari outfitters in my capacity as a government game warden. I am an 80 year old ex-game warden with 60 years of continuous experience in hands-on wildlife management, and national park management, in Africa (1959 to 2019). In breakdown, I have 24 years experience in the management of national parks in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe - and in the management of the wild animal populations that lived inside those national parks; one year as the Chief Nature Conservation of the Ciskei in South Africa; three years as Director of the Bophuthatswana National Parks Board in South Africa; and I worked for three years as a professional hunter in the South African Great Karoo (taking foreign hunters on quests for plains game trophies). I discovered, however, that professional hunting was not my forte. I worked as an investigative wildlife journalist for 30 years in South Africa. I have written fifteen books and hundreds of magazine articles on the subject of wildlife management and big game hunting in Africa. Five of my books are university-level text books on wildlife management. I am a university-trained ecologist; was a member of the Institute of Biology (London) for 20 years; and was a registered chartered biologist for the European Union for 20 years. I have VAST experience in the “management hunting” of elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards and hippos (as part of my official national park work in the control of problem animals); and I pioneered the capture of black rhino in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Valley (1964 - 1970). My university thesis was entitled: “The Factors Affecting the Survival and Distribution of Black Rhinos in Rhodesia”. Look at my personal website if you want any further details about my experience:

Ron Thomson has 249 posts and counting. See all posts by Ron Thomson

One thought on “Response to Oxford Researcher Brent Stapelkamp’s Video Stating: Cecil’s Hunt Illegal

  • Ron,
    I fully agree with your comments and ideas.
    is there any specific reason why my comment on “The Truth Behind Cecil The Lion”, posted on June 14th, at 6:59pm, was not approved?
    In it, I just included the link of Staplekamp´s lies and nonsense, and commented on why this whole incident is very “smelly” in deed.
    If it´s because we´re not allowed to include any youtube links or similar things in our comments, it would be good to know, in order not to repeat it again.
    Apart from that, and as stated before, I fully agree with your criticism towards the whole situation.
    Staplekamp, Tarvers and co. are just a bunch of liars.


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