resources > cecil the lion
PHOTO CREDIT: Andy Loveridge, The Associated Press
YouTube Video: Cecil the Lion in the wild in Zimbabwe: Cecil - Africa's Biggest Lion
Jimmy Kimmel speaks about the death of Cecil the Lion
Cecil the Lion
We all followed the heart-breaking story describing the savage killing of Cecil, Zimbabwe's beloved lion. For those who live in Minnesota, what hurt even more was the fact that the killer, Walter Palmer, is from Minnesota.
Cecil's death is disturbing for multiple reasons. The killing of Cecil brings to the forefront the ugly actions of trophy (big-game) hunting and poaching.
Rep. Betty McCollum (MN) is quoted by MPR News: "To bait and kill a threatened animal, like this African lion, for sport cannot be called hunting, but rather a disgraceful display of callous cruelty. For those of us committed to ending poaching of iconic African species I strongly believe the U.S. Attorney's Office and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services should investigate whether U.S. laws were violated related to conspiracy, bribery of foreign officials, and the illegal hunting of a protected species or animal."
Jane Goodall, from The Jane Goodall Institute, released this statement: "I was shocked and outraged to hear the story of Cecil, Zimbabwe's much loved lion. Not only is it incomprehensible to me that anyone would want to kill an endangered animal (fewer than 20,000 wild lions in Africa today) but to lure Cecil from the safety of a national park and then to shoot him with a crossbow...? I have no words to express my repugnance. He was not even killed outright, but suffered for hours before finally being shot with a bullet. And his magnificent head severed from his wounded body. And this behaviour is described as a "sport." Only one good thing comes out of this – thousands of people have read the story and have also been shocked. Their eyes opened to the dark side of human nature. Surely they will now be more prepared to fight for the protection of wild animals and the wild places where they live. Therein lies the hope."
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) says that "African lion populations have fallen almost 60% over the past three decades." (CNN) Per IFAW: "Approximately 600 lions are killed every year on trophy hunts legally. Unfortunately, Americans are primarily to blame. Approximately 60 percent of all lions killed for sport in Africa are shipped to the U.S. as trophies."
CNN also reports that Cecil "was a participant in a study that Oxford University in Britain was conducting, and he had been outfitted with a GPS collar." The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WILDCRU) at Oxford University had been tracking and studying Cecil at the park since 2008. According to a statement on WILDCRU’s website, the death of Cecil will have a negative effect on his pride (a family unit consisting of males, females, and their young).
Cecil's life was followed for years by people around the world. Brief description of Cecil can be found at links below:
• 08.03.15 Delta Airlines joins ban on the shipment of certain animal trophies, including lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceroses and buffaloes
• 07.31.15 Representative for Walter Palmer has reached out to U.S. authorities (USFWS Director had urged Palmer to contact authorities; Palmer was and is hiding)
• 07.31.15 Zimbabwe authorities seek extradition of Walter Palmer
• 07.30.15 United States Fish and Wildlife Service will investigate Cecil's death
• 07.30.15 United Nations adopts resolution to combat illegal wildlife trafficking
• 07.29.15 Guide Theo Bronkhorst charged with failing to prevent an illegal hunt
• 07.27.15 Walter Palmer is identified as the killer of Cecil the Lion
• 07.25.15 Zimbabwe officials announce Cecil has been killed
• 07.01.15 Lion is killed after being wounded in a nighttime hunt
All photos on this page (except Cecil above and Palmer below) are by Arianna Pittman, copyright Animal Folks.
The world was watching to see how America would respond to this injustice.
At the time of the incident, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) was finalizing the proposal to list the African lion under the Endangered Species Act and to ban the importation of lion heads, tails, and skins in order to stop all trophy imports into the United States.
Cecil's death also heightened awareness about poaching and related illegal activities, and trophy hunting. Federal bills to address these issues had already been introduced to
strengthen enforcement efforts to prevent and prosecute wildlife trafficking crimes.
Example: H.R. 2494 - Global Anti-Poaching Act
Washington Examiner article 07.31.15 "Poaching and illegal trade in threatened wildlife generates up to $10 billion a year in illegal economic activity....One purpose of the bill is to stop poachers with links to terrorist groups from harvesting animals illegally and selling them to fund terrorist activities."
Citizens were asked to contact their U.S. Senator and your U.S. Representative and express support for thse bills.
STATEMENTS BY U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is deeply concerned about the recent killing of Cecil the lion. We are currently gathering facts about the issue and will assist Zimbabwe officials in whatever manner requested. It is up to all of us - not just the people of Africa - to ensure that healthy, wild populations of animals continue to roam the savanna for generations to come.
NOTE: A fourth threat to African lions is trophy hunting and poaching, which contributes to trade of illegal wildlife and other crimes. A fifth threat is government-sanctioned hunting for purposes of economic development (money).
NOTE: See paragraph two above from statement. The USFWS was allowing"a permitting mechanism for the importation of sport-hunted lion trophies" in their proposal.
• African Lion: https://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/african_lion.html
• Public Comment: Threatened Status for the African Lion
• Frequently Asked Questions: Proposed Rule Listing the African Lion as Threatened
UPDATE: USFWS will investigate the death of Cecil. Statement by Edward Grace, Deputy Chief of Law Enforcement with the USFWS, announced: "The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is investigating the circumstances surrounding the killing of "Cecil the lion." That investigation will take us wherever the facts lead. At this point in time, however, multiple efforts to contact Dr. Walter Palmer have been unsuccessful. We ask that Dr. Palmer or his representative contact us immediately."
UPDATE: 07.31.15 USFWS reports that a Representative for Palmer has contacted federal authorities.
MONEY: POACHING, TROPHY HUNTING, ILLEGAL TRADE
There is an enormous amount of data about poaching, trophy hunting and the illegal wildlife trade and the crimes activities associated with each. Below is a brief introduction.
Washington Post article with overview of illegal wildlife trade: Overwhelmed U.S. port inspectors unable to keep with illegal wildlife trade
BBC News offers this definition of poaching: "Poaching is hunting without legal permission from whoever controls the land. Hunting lions is not prohibited per se in Zimbabwe, and indeed in many other countries in Africa. Hunting is regulated by the government, and hunters must obtain permits authorising them to kill certain animals."
Per Star Tribune (08.01.15): "Authorities in Zimbabwe described [Palmer] as an accomplice to an illegal hunt, and prosecutors have said flatly that his guide and outfitter lacked the permits to kill a lion legally. They also have suggested that bribery was involved in the hunt, because the party lacked the necessary documents, but they have not specified what charges might be laid against Palmer."
Trophy hunting is defined as "the selective hunting of wild game animals." (Wikipedia) Parts of the slain animal, such as the heads, teeth, tusks or horns, are kept as souvenirs or trophies to be mounted on walls.
According to CITES, "52 percent of all lion trophy exports end up in the U.S., and its share of the trophy trade has been growing." The U.S. is the biggest importer of lion trophies. "In South Africa," writes MPR News, "hunting brings in more than $600 million into the economy each year, according to the BBC. ... Seventeen percent of Zimbabwe's land — a space about the size of Wisconsin — is used for trophy hunting."
One of the pro-hunting arguments used is that the funds for permits pay for conversation efforts and "economic development."
Lion Aid explains: "Cecil was not the first or even the one hundred and first lion to be illegally hunted. It happens all the time. Cecil was just too "famous" to be ignored — unlike all those other poor lions killed illegally for sport that people did not pay attention to. But it is called sustainable utilization by hunting organizations, corrupt governments and even conservation organizations. .... While Cecil might now have exposed the sordid practice of trophy hunting in Africa, it will take a long time to correct. Too much money is being made and distributed to those who would support the killing or more and more Cecils. Already those with deep pockets are fighting back with at least purchased articles in the news media. Millionaires and billionaires will not easily abandon their entertainment of sport hunting — conservation is not important to them..."
Illegal wildlife trade
From WWF website: "The world is dealing with an unprecented spike in illegal wildlife trade, threatening to overturn decades of conservation gains. [Example: Rhino poaching in South Africa increased from 13 to 1,004 between 2007 and 2013 -- a 7,700% increase.] Wildlife crimes is a big business. Run by dangerous international networks, wildlife and animal parts are trafficked much like illegal drugs and arms."
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: Wildlife Crime has stated that "wildlife crime is worth $8-10 billion annually, ranking it alongside human trafficking, arms and drug dealing in terms of profits."
FEDERAL (U.S.) LAWS AND INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENT
The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) provided some provocative legal questions and options to the killing of Cecil the Lion:
Different federal laws may apply (depends on facts found), such as:
If extradition is requested and allowed:
Endangered Species Act
At this date, African lions are not protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Business Insider asked Lewis & Clark law professor Daniel Rohlf to comment on the possible prosecution of Walter Palmer under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which criminalizes the slaughter of imperiled species. "At this point, African lions are only proposed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act," Rohlf said. "However, even if they were listed, the ESA does not make it illegal for US citizens to kill lions in Africa — federal law leaves decisions about managing wildlife within other countries (even wildlife listed as threatened or endangered under our ESA) to those countries themselves."
The Lacey Act
The Lacey Act is a US law that protects wildlife overseas. The Lacey Act makes it illegal "to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce ... any fish or wildlife taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any State or in violation of any foreign law."
Could this law be used to prosecute Palmer? Writes the Business Insider: "While the Lacey Act primarily aims to prevent protected species from being imported into the US, wildlife expert Eric Freyfogle explained that Palmer could be prosecuted regardless of whether the remains of Cecil were imported. "It is enough, to satisfy the 'purchase' requirement, that he hire guides, outfitters or other local services or purchase a hunting license of permit and that this happen in 'interstate commerce' (meaning simply that he crossed national borders or communicated across national borders)," Freyfogle said. That interpretation of the law might be a stretch, though. Other legal experts say that Palmer would have to bring part of the lion into the US to get prosecuted under the Lacey Act."
Link to article referenced above: Did Walter Palmer break any law?
Link to further discussion of the various laws: Cecil the lion death backlash still raging
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
It's been reported that a hunter may not know the laws and regulations of a country so buys a safari and relies on a professional hunter guide.
Lion researcher Brent Stapelkamp, who studied Cecil for years, disagrees that hunters are that clueless and believes that hunters do not and should not rely solely on guides to ensure a legal hunt. Per Star Tribune article: "[Palmer] is a well-educated man, he's got a lot of resources," Stapelkamp said. "You could do your homework. Due diligence. You would know that you're hunting in a controversial area. You've got a GPS you could have in your pocket and you have a look at the map, and you say, 'Listen, Friend, I think we're in the wrong area.' There's no excuse. ...Palmer came with the intention of getting the biggest lion that he could and getting out. And he got caught. "
Explains HEAVY.com : "If it can be proven that Palmer did indeed bribe the park officials with a large sum of case, he may be able to be charged in the United States under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The second part [of the Act] could be used to charge Palmer, specifically under the Alternative Jusidiction section." The U.S. Department of Justice explains the purpose of this Act: "The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 was enacted for the purpose of making it unlawful for certain classes of persons and entities to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business."
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act
RICO is a federal law, enacted in 1978, that provides tools for prosecutors to combat organized crime. Per FindLaw: "Racketeering is when organized groups run illegal businesses, known as "rackets", or when an organized crime ring uses legitimate organizations to embezzle funds. ... Before Congress enacted laws that specifically combat organized crime, prosecutors found it very difficult to end these rackets. Prosecutors could often convict the lower ranked members of the organizations, because they were the ones who actually performed the illegal activities. However, the masterminds behind the organized crime rings were often much harder to prosecute because they couldn't be directly connected to any of the crimes."
Explains ALDF: "Zimbabwean authorities believe that Theo Bronkorst [professional hunter with Bushman Safaris] and Honest Ndlovu [local landowner] "connived" to kill the lion without the appropriate permits or licenses. Both men face criminal poaching charges in Zimbabwe and could face up to fifteen years in prison. If Palmer induced these men into organizing the hunt as part of an ongoing effort to evade or intentionally violate national and international wildlife laws, then Palmer is guilty of racketeering."
Zimbabwe has requested the extradition of Walter Palmer. Extradition is defined as "the procedure by which a state or nation, upon receipt of a formal request by another state or nation, turns over to that second jurisdiction an individual charged with or convicted of a crime in that jurisdiction. (Dictionary.com)
The United States has extradition treaties with various countries. Star Tribune reports: "The U.S. has extradited just 54 to 72 fugitives annually in recent years, a number that includes foreign citizens as well as U.S. citizens and covers all reasons for extradition."
The United States has had an extradition treaty with Zimbabwe since 1997.
Even if all the legal aspects of an extradition could be met, the United States could still say "No, we don't want to extradite the person." This could be due to a variety of factors, including disagreements with a country regarding fair trials, conditions of prisons, etc. (Zimbabwe's prisons were recently "described as a hellhole in a report by the Zimbabwe Independent." Washington Post). The extradition process could take years with appeals.
Experts who deal with extraditions suggest an alternative: Using Interpol. Countries can make a request for an Interpol Red Notice ("closest instrument to an international arrest warrant") which essentially tells another county that if the "wanted" person crosses their border, that country can stop and arrest the person and notify the requesting country. If this were to happen in Palmer's case, he could then be arrested and sent to Zimbabwe via another country, not the United States. [CNN]
The United Nations
The United Nations (UN) "unanimously adopted its first-ever resolution aimed at combatting illicit trafficking in wildlife on Thursday (July 30, 2015) as its sponsors expressed outrage at the killing of a beloved protected lion in Zimbabwe."
CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and is an international agreement (a multilateral treaty) between governments to protect endangered plants and animals. As stated on the CITES website, "its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival."
Extradition Treaties and INTERPOL - See previous section
A large crowd gathered outside River Bluff Dental in Bloomington, Walter Palmer's dental practice, on July 29, 2015, to hold a peaceful protest condemning the action of Palmer in the killing of Cecil the lion. The protest was organized by Animal Rights Coalition.
Protesters held signs and took turns using a loud speaker to express their outrage over the killing and engage the crowd in chants, including "Justice for Cecil" and "Extradite [Palmer]." A few (now former) patients of River Bluff Dental also spoke to the crowd stating they will no longer give their business to his practice.
Mark Balma, an artist who was in town visiting, decided to paint a portrait in honor of Cecil (scroll to end of this webpage to view painting), which was displayed in the parking lot during the protest. Balma said when he heard the news, he immediately ran to the art store to buy supplies for the creation of the painting. "Cecil was a beautiful creature," said Balma.
Additional photos from protest are at end of this page.
WALTER PALMER: BACKGROUND
On August 3, 2015, Animal Folks filed a complaint against Walter Palmer with the Minnesota Board of Dentistry for violation of Minnesota statutes and rules (links above) in regards to professional and person conduct and, through his conduct of savagely killing Cecil the Lion, showed gross immorality and discredited the profession of dentistry. Others filed similar complaints. The MN Board of Dentistry refused to take action.
Palmer is known as an avid trophy hunter and bow-and-arrow marksman. News reports claim: Palmer used a bow and arrow to wound Cecil; the lion was then tracked for 40 hours until found and killed with a gunshot.
Palmer is at left in photo above. Lion is a different lion he killed, reports say.
Per Star Tribune (08.01.15): Cecil is not Palmer's first kill. "In March 2005, he killed a lion, buffalo and a rhinoceros. He returned to the continent and killed an elephant in February 2013. In total, Safari Club records show he has killed 43 animals, all with a bow and arrow, including a polar bear, four other bears, and a mountain lion."
Palmer has been involved with other illegal activities in past years:
NEWS AND COMMENTARY
Below are just a few of the many news articles about this story. As this is historical data, some links may no longer be active.
From around the world
Outrage over the event resulted in international coverage and a flurry of posts on social media sites.