Killing of Ce­cil’s son high­lights peril fac­ing African lions

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD - BY CHRISTO­PHER TORCHIA

First there was Ce­cil, a Zim­bab­wean lion whose 2015 killing by an Amer­i­can hunter ig­nited in­ter­na­tional out­rage. Now Ce­cil’s son Xanda has been killed in the same area, bring­ing fresh scru­tiny on the “tro­phy” hunt­ing of a species whose num­bers in the African wild have plum­meted.

Many re­searchers agree that Africa’s lions face greater threats, in­clud­ing hu­man en­croach­ment on habi­tats and the poach­ing of an­i­mals for food, which de­prives lions of prey. A more re­cent con­cern is the le­gal ex­port of South African lion skele­tons to a tra­di­tional medicine mar­ket in Asia, which some crit­ics be­lieve could lead to in­creased poach­ing of wild lions to meet de­mand.

“The species is in free-fall,” said Will Travers, pres­i­dent and co-founder of Born Free, an in­ter­na­tional con­ser­va­tion group. He cited es­ti­mates that there are only 20,000 wild lions left in Africa.

Six-year-old Xanda was killed on or around July 7 just out­side Zim­babwe’s Hwange Na­tional Park and the shooter is a client of Zim­bab­wean pro­fes­sional hunter Richard Cooke, a group called World Her­itage Species said on Face­book. Group mem­bers in­clude Brent Stapelkamp, a re­searcher who mon­i­tors lions in Hwange park, where Ce­cil and Xanda lived.

“Al­though the hunt was re­port­edly le­gal (all the proper pa­pers were in or­der, Xanda was over the age of 5, and he was out­side the bound­aries of the park), Cooke has re­fused to di­vulge the iden­tity of his client. Cooke also led the hunt in 2015 that killed Ce­cil’s other son,” the group said.

Ef­forts to reach Cooke by email and phone were not im­me­di­ately suc­cess­ful. Zim­bab­wean wildlife au­thor­i­ties have not com­mented pub­licly.

Ce­cil was killed in a hunt in which he was il­le­gally lured out of the wildlife park with bait and ini­tially wounded by an ar­row, ac­cord­ing to au­thor­i­ties. The death un­leashed an ex­tra­or­di­nary out­pour­ing of anger at Wal­ter Palmer, the Amer­i­can den­tist who shot the lion, and other for­eign­ers who have trav­elled to Africa to kill wildlife.

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