Monday 21 August 2017

Killing of Cecil the lion caused outrage - but legal hunting can be lifeline for Africa's wildlife

A girl protests against the killing of Cecil the lion by hunter Walter Palmer
A girl protests against the killing of Cecil the lion by hunter Walter Palmer

Jonathan Young

The death of Cecil the lion has caused outrage but the killing of big game offers a key to conservation. There's something rather tragic about a dead big cat; an apex predator reduced to something akin to a battered teddy crossed with a shagpile carpet.

So it's easy to understand the anger over Cecil, the Zimbabwean lion killed by Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota. Piers Morgan's tweet, announcing: "I'd love to go hunting for killer dentist Dr Walter Palmer, so I can stuff him on my office wall", is typical of the digital castigation now being heaped on the American.

I wonder, then, what Palmer's critics would make of Kirkpatrick, whose head and skin lie by my desk as I type. He's an Indian leopard, 7ft from head to tail, his face twisted into a sardonic snarl, who took 34 human lives before he met his demise in 1934 with a bullet from the local district commissioner. Would they condemn his killing or that of the leopard of Rudraprayag, shot by Jim Corbett in 1926 after it had eaten 125 souls?

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