Michael Pearce: Many questions about lion’s death and public’s reaction to it

Cecil the lion stands with his pride on the plains in Hwange National Park in November 2012. Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer is accused of poaching the lion last month during an illegal hunt in Zimbabwe.
Cecil the lion stands with his pride on the plains in Hwange National Park in November 2012. Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer is accused of poaching the lion last month during an illegal hunt in Zimbabwe. TNS

A lion was shot, and allegedly poached, in Zimbabwe by Minnesotan Walter Palmer. That’s about all I completely understand about the incident that’s created a social media frenzy. I’d like to know more.

I want to know what actually happened.

First the lion famous in Zimbabwe was shot by a Spaniard with a crossbow, then by Palmer with a compound bow and the animal was famous around the world. Many reports say it took the hunters 40 hours to track the wounded lion and finish it with a rifle. Now, some are saying he shot it at night, and finished it the next morning with his bow.

(If it really was 40 hours, this bowhunter who has killed animals larger than a lion within a few seconds of the shot would like to ask Palmer what happened for such a horrendous result.)

Early reports say a dead animal was dragged behind a vehicle, through the park to lure the lion behind so it could be killed on private land. If so, was it actually killed on private land or in the no-hunting park?

That the lion was killed in a hunting area where lions are off-limits is a rare constant in the reporting.

If true, I think Palmer, his guide, and the landowner should be punished as per Zimbabwe law for lion poaching. If a good investigation, and fair trial, show more was done illegally, more punishment should be given.

But I want there to be solid proof and I’d love to hear all sides of the story.

So you know, I am an avid hunter with gun and bow, with a dozen or so trophies hanging in our basement. All were delicious. Most winters our freezer holds a hundred or so vacuum-sealed “trophies,” too.

I’ve never desired to hunt lions. But I respect my friends who have done it legally and only shot old males and one livestock-killing female. I appreciate the huge amounts of money ($50,000 isn’t unheard of for hunting in Africa) they’ve left in Africa, even when they’ve come home empty handed, which provides jobs and funds things such as biological studies and game wardens.

One of the biggest mysteries of the lion ordeal, though, is all of the emotion it’s brought to the world.

It went from breaking news to hysteria almost immediately. I’d like to know why some broadcast personalities got emotionally broken up over the death of a lion, yet they’ve reported on mass murders, wars and catastrophic weather disasters with a straight face?

I’d like someone to explain why our society gets more upset when some animals are killed than when people are killed? Where is all of this fervor for things such as an estimated 3 million children dying in the world annually to malnutrition, or the thousands of people annually who are murdered because of their religion, race, or gender?

If proven guilty, I want Palmer and the others punished, but I don’t understand how animal-rights groups can say that it’s OK for Palmer to be killed for allegedly poaching a lion but they don’t want me to kill a fish to eat? Why are there people who want Palmer executed while they’re against capital punishment for people who kill people?

And I’m wondering where the reported 100,000 who signed an online petition for the U.S. government to get involved have been for the past 40 years?

That’s at least how long biologists have preached it’s loss of habitat and poaching that are the biggest enemies of African wildlife. It’s a continent with some of the world’s fastest population growth and worst poverty. Neither bodes well for wildlife.

I don’t understand how the death of one animal brings more attention than the plight of the entire species.

Several predictions say Kenya, once Africa’s richest country in terms of wildlife, will see its lions go extinct within the next 15 years, though they haven’t allowed hunting since 1977.

Where are the petitions, the late-night hosts spreading the word and gathering funds to reserve chunks of habitat and fund the anti-poaching steps African animal species so need?

Like I said, there’s a lot to this I just don’t understand.

Reach Michael Pearce at 316-268-6382 or mpearce@wichitaeagle.com.