Emily Collins reports that the killing of Cecil the Lion has sparked widespread debate over big game hunting. Big game safaris have been controversial for years, although the sport attracts 15,000 Americans to Africa each year for hunting trips. In South Africa alone, big game hunting brings in 9,000 hunters and generates $744 million in revenue for the big game hunting industry.
Conservation groups, including the World Wildlife Fund, support regulated hunting. The argument hunters make is that, if it is done legally and properly, hunting will allow the strongest animals to survive and, in the process, scale back illegal hunting. Conservation experts maintain that it’s not enough to preserve animals. Functioning ecosystems must be preserved as well. Animal rights groups argue that hunting encourages illegal activity. The heads of killed animals are treated as trophies, and animal skins and bones are traded on the black market.
The killing of Cecil the Lion has brought the big game hunting issue into the spotlight. Cecil, a rare black-maned lion, was killed by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer. Palmer claims to have obtained a permit from his professional guides. He says he thought it was legal to hunt and kill the animal outside of a protected park in Zimbabwe. As it turned out, the hunt was illegal. Palmer could be tried in the U.S. or be extradited to Zimbabwe.
The legal matter of concern is not the killing of Cecil, but rather the alleged bribing of wildlife guides in order to gain access to prey. Palmer says that he trusted the guides. He is said to have paid them $50,000. The African lion population is on the decline, dropping 48.5% in the last 20 years. If the species is listed as endangered, import of lion trophies into the U.S. would be illegal. The Wildlife Conservation Society commended President Obama for his recent remarks in Kenya about the need to end wildlife trafficking.
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