Cecil the Lion – A martyr making a difference.

Undated picture of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe. Dr Andrew Loveridge / Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University 

 

Cecil, the lion killed by American Dentist James Palmer, is raising more awareness about wildlife conservation than any single individual or organization has done in years.

By now, most everyone within sight of a TV or who has an even a passing interest in the internet knows about Cecil, the beloved lion from Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. Google shows 39,800,000 results, including a page in Wikipedia. On Twitter there were more than 670,000 tweets in the first 24 hours after the story broke. As of yesterday, the hashtag, #CecilTheLion has tallied 2 billion impressions.

Cecil, the lionized lion, is now part of an international conversation about conservation and the justification of sport hunting. Cecil may be gone, but he surely is not forgotten. The same cannot be said for James Palmer. His dentistry Yelp’s page was flooded with nasty comments that called him “demented” and a “disgusting coward”. Fake pages for River Bluff Dental also populated Facebook to further humiliate him with equally scathing reviews.

Celebrities have jumped into the fray en masse. Mia Farrow tweeted the business address of the dentist. She received some heat for doing so, and even more praise. Bob Barker, the former “The Price Is Right” host, defender her and added, “Well, if by publicizing his address they can make him miserable, I say publicize that address, because this man deserves to be made miserable for years to come.”

The dentist has apologized for the kill and blamed his guides, who have been charged with poaching and released by authorities in Zimbabwe. The jury is still out on whether the shooting of Cecil was “technically” legal or if James Palmer was complacent in a crime. One thing is for sure; a renewed conversation about conservation has begun, thanks to a lone lion on the African Plain.

UPDATE:
The killer of Cecil the lion that has been excoriated around the world in recent days may face Zimbabwean justice for his crime. Zimbabwe’s government has asked that Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota who has admitted to killing the animal, be returned to Africa to be tried. 
“We are appealing to the responsible authorities for his extradition to Zimbabwe so that he can be held accountable for his illegal action,” environment minister Oppah Muchinguri said on Friday, as Reuters reported.
By Justin Wm. Moyer - Washington Press

 Photograph: Christopher Scott/Alamy

 

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