Animal activists are to be admired because they care, but true facts are important for wildlife.
After the American hunter Palmer killed Cecil the Lion in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, the news exploded across the world. Activists were incensed as details of his death emerged. The righteous anger spotlighted trophy-hunting as an ethical issue and helped contribute to the USA declaring lions as ”endangered”.
There were petitions and outraged comments across the internet against Hwange Game Reserve, safari operators and park visitors. It is admirable to care about wildlife. It is essential to protect and care for the animals on our planet, but when people call for boycotts and petitions, misconstrued facts can cause long-term damage to the animals themselves.
It cannot be disputed that Cecil was shot by an American hunter with a bow. It is a sad but unproven possibility that Cecil may have been “baited” out of the protected area. It was a tragic fact that Cecil was a well-known lion that tourists from all over the world remember. It is accepted and acknowledged that there are people who cannot tolerate hunting. All of this is not disputed. The anger is understandable and those who want to make a difference should be admired.
There have been some alarming statements made about Cecil and the game reserve where he lived. People who want to make a change should bevery careful to get their facts right. The future of the wildlife of Zimbabwe might rest on decisions people make about boycotting game reserves.
There was a petition run on Careto which called for the boycott of blood sport in Zimbabwe. The petition came from the heart. The wording is distressing, and given some of the inaccuracies in the petition write up, it is understandable why the organizer was so angry.
The first inaccuracy came in the first sentence. The petition said that they wanted to “rescue these animals from captivity.” From this statement and the reaction of many other activists, it appears that many people haveno idea of the sheer size of Hwange. Hwange is not a little safari park with paddocks and fences.
Hwange is a massive area of land of 14 650 sq. kms, which is bigger than Switzerland. Compare this with the size of New York City which is only 789 sq. kms. Cecil was not kept in captivity. He was born and raised naturally in this vast sanctuary where hunting is not permitted.There is a good possibility his ancestral family has been there as long as lions have walked the earth. The reserve is not fenced around the total periphery and it was precisely because of the lack of fencing that Cecil was able to leave the protected area.
The next inaccuracy came in the 2nd sentence. The petition stated that lions are being inbred to get shot for thousands of pounds “illegally in Zimbabwe.” Lions are not being inbred for hunting in Zimbabwe. They arebeing bred for hunting in South Africa. South Africa and Zimbabwe are separate countries with separate histories.
Grossly distorted facts encourage people to boycott the reserves that rely on tourism for their survival. Hwange Game Reserve sits on part of the Kalahari sands. The greater part of it is a semi-desert. The provision of dams and water pumps to aid animal survival has been a challenge since the reserve was proclaimed in the 1920s. Income from visitors goes a long way to helping the animals survive, especially in drought years.
There are non-hunting safari operators who do a tremendous amount of voluntary work to preserve the animals. Many of their Facebook pages have received angry comments calling their clients cruel, and inhuman for staying in the “stench of (Cecil’s) blood.” How can it possibly help the preservation of animals in Hwange Game reserve if visitors boycott the park?
Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe has come under fire for myriad human-rights issues, and land invasions. He is extremely powerful in Africa and has scant regard for the opinions of other countries. He takes little notice of protests about his rule. He could have simply de-proclaimed the parks in the country. The wildlife would have been wiped out. If we grant him nothing else, at least, he has not committed this crime against wildlife.
If visitors do not visit the game reserves in Zimbabwe, more than Cecil will die. If the reserves become uneconomical and unsustainable, poachers will wipe out the animals. I have seen places in Africa where biodiversity has been destroyed through lack of conservation. There are thousands of miles of desertification caused by goats, over-grazing and uncontrolled human settlement. Is that what we want for Hwange?-Newshub