The death of what is arguably the world’s most decorated lion, known to many as Cecil, has caused a huge uproar in most people. Cecil was apparently lured out of Hwange National Park Zimbabwe where he was shot with a bow and arrow before being finished with a rifle by an American dentist. Given the popularity of the lion, Cecil’s beloved fans and general conservators community have called for legal action on the dentist and the natural reserve gamekeeper he apparently bribed. While the accused gamekeeper is to appear before the Zimbabwean magistrate, there is yet any solid legal action imposed on the American dentist. Most people further argue that regulations governing poaching and importing of wildlife animal-trophies need to be re-evaluated and made stricter.
While the death of Cecil has most people on their feet, wildlife poaching has recently been taking its toll in most African nature reserves. Rhinoceros are the most vulnerable as most poachers kill them for their horns which are regarded as a sign of wealth to some people while others argue they have medicinal purposes despite no scientific evidence to support that claim. Kruger national park has recorded escalating numbers of poached Rhinos over the last decade. The number was estimated to be as low as 13 poached rhinos in 2007, the number has surged to about 1 215 rhinos in 2014 – an alarming one rhino poached every 7 hours. Save the Rhino estimated that at this rate, rhino’s death would be higher than their births by 2018 latest making them likely to be extinct in the near future.
Yes, we are facing a sad reality where Africa will be demoted from being home of the big five. How depressing. Given that elephant tusks are also considered valuable, elephant poaching is also escalating though at a lower rate relative to that of rhinos. Last year Tanzania reported a 66% decline in the population of elephants in Serengeti. We are fast approaching a time when a tour of Serengeti National park or the Maasai Mara National Park or any of the wonderful African National Parks will then end without any sight of the big five.
African governments need to implement tight measures soon to avoid this tragedy. Perhaps we can use Cecil’s case as a platform to revisit laws and regulations that govern wildlife. African countries should make it illegal to import animal-trophies; of course, these measures need to go hand in hand with regions like the EU making such imports illegal in other to be effective. Illegal hunting should also carry a hefty punishment, especially in the case of extinct animals. Corruption also forms part of the problem as gamekeepers are bribed by hunters to make poaching feasible. Such gamekeepers don’t care about the wildlife and should lose their licenses and/or get blacklisted from working in national parks.
Poaching is not only an environmental concern; it has economic implications especially in countries where tourism constitutes a high percentage of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). To put things in perspective, Cecil brought in an estimated $11 500 per day from tourists while the accused American is estimated to have only paid about $72 000 in bribe to kill this iconic creature. The income loss due to this is evidently high hence it’s in Zimbabwe’s interest to have regulations that protect its wildlife. It is evident that the poaching has far-reaching implications and should be addressed urgently. It should be noted that these do not mean hunting should be abolished; rather hunting should be regulated. Regulated hunting can be used to control wildlife population while simultaneously being a source of revenue.
Let’s join hands and preserve the pride of Africa, the home of the big five.
(Header Image Credit: Live Science)