In the last few days the story of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe being killed by an American dentist who claims he believed the $68k hunt was legal, has entered a new phase of social media frenzy. People pepper their facebook pages with links to the story, their wishes for what should happen to the dentist, and even the Zimbabwe government is considering bringing charges. A case of the gang going after the lone criminal. I have even seen pictures — retweeted with glee — which show demonstrating by animal rights activists outside the dentists practice.
I am sure it makes people feel a little better to feel like they’re serving justice on the cruel act of ‘canned hunting’ (which is pretty much what the hunt was since the lion was lured out and put in a position where it had no means of escape). But hang on. A decade ago there were 50,000 wild lions in Africa, now there is 10,000. The dentist didn’t kill them all. He has become the face of illegal poaching and therein lies the awful truth. In their self-righteous passion people are tearing down one American dentist, whom we know nothing about other than that he shot Cecil with a crossbow.
What he did was absolutely and undeniably wrong, but it is done. Cecil is dead. The new alpha lion will likely kill any of Cecil’s cubs in the pride (which makes the trophy killing of one male lion an actual destruction of a significant slice of the gene pool), and the supply and demand pressures will continue to push wild lions to the brink of extinction. No Simba on the rock, the circle of life has become an unstoppable wheel of death because we focus on the one guy whose name and face pops up on every tenth facebook post. This is ridiculous, and it is getting to a critical mass which could make or break the future of African lions. Save the lions not the poachers; say no to scapegoating.