Saving Cecil’s descendants from the trophy huntA humane world
By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
The Lions, Netsai and Humba, who live in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, play an important role in their pride, which includes the descendants of Cecil. These are some of the majestic male lions in the area who are at risk of being targeted and killed by trophy hunters. Dex kotze
In August, reports began to surface that a lion in Zimbabwe, which was loved by local communities, was likely lured out of Hwange National Park and killed by an American trophy hunter. His name was Mopane.
For anyone who followed Cecil the Lion’s story in 2015, these details created a sense of déjà vu and the sad feeling that little has changed to protect these targeted animals since the global outcry for justice to be done to Cecil. For the locals who had loved Mopane enough to start a petition to protect them, it must have looked like a gruesome defeat. And for the pride lions of Mopane, famous for his distinctive coalition originally formed with another male lion named Sidhule (himself killed by a trophy hunter in 2019) and which included two adult females and six sub- adults around 16 to 18 months old, the delicate balance of their families was upset. Mopane was a father and played an important role in his pride. Without him, his pride is now vulnerable to being taken over by another male or a group of males, which can lead to the killing of cubs and females. Every time a trophy hunter kills a lion, the effects spill over into the human and animal realms, and that’s what happened when Mopane’s last breath left him.
Mopane’s death is a heartbreaking reminder that other lions in the Hwange National Park area may be sitting targets for trophy hunters. These lions include Humba and Netsai, two brothers who took over Cecil’s pride in 2018 and are a source of pride for local photographic tour operators who enjoy showcasing these two beautiful maned lions to wildlife viewing tourists. Humba and Netsai have been called “Cecil’s heirs” because their 25-member pride now consists of Cecil’s companions, daughters and cubs. If Humba and Netsai are targeted by trophy hunters, Cecil’s relatives will be vulnerable to the takeover and in danger of being killed.
Within the Humane Society family of organizations, we believe, to put it simply, enough is enough. Most recently, the Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society International, and the Humane Society Legislative Fund wrote to the US Fish and Wildlife Service calling the agency for using misinformation to justify its issuance of trophy imports from lion from Zimbabwe and for failing to fulfill its mandate under the Endangered Species Act. The letter was prompted by Mopane’s murder and fears that the lions that reside around Hwange National Park, like Cecil’s pride, could be the next targets in the trophy hunt.
Our letter is the latest in a series of actions and campaigns that our family of organizations have carried out in recent years to seek increased protection for the African lion. In 2015, in response to our petition, the US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the African lion under the Endangered Species Act. In 2017, the HSUS, HSI, and HSLF wrote to the agency protesting that it failed to use the best available scientific data when reviewing applications for import permits for trophies from Zimbabwe lion. Our letters from 2017 and last week provided the FWS with new scientific research showing that lion trophy hunting in Zimbabwe has been mismanaged and that lion hunting quotas are not science-based. While proponents of trophy hunting claim that the income from these hunts is an important source for local livelihoods and increases the tolerance of the local community towards living with wildlife, the numerous studies we have provided show that ‘There is little evidence that trophy hunting in Zimbabwe has provided these benefits.
Our advocacy has fallen on deaf ears. We pointed out in the 2017 letter that there are less than 300 truly wild adult male lions left in Zimbabwe. Yet since 2018, the agency has issued 23 permits to import lion trophies from Zimbabwe.
We are convinced that the Cecil massacre in 2015 was not an anomaly but a glimpse into the evil hobby of killing majestic wild animals and the authorization of this by government agencies that make decisions on permits to import of trophies. We are particularly concerned about the continued trophy hunting of male lions in the Hwange National Park area. Much research shows that harvesting of human-made lions in the Hwange area has led to the decline of lion populations in the area and is therefore not sustainable.
Our call for the FWS to examine the importation of the lion trophies is echoed by Zimbabwean defenders. On September 21, Advocates4Earth, a non-profit organization registered in Zimbabwe, asked the FWS to suspend the importation of lion trophies from Zimbabwe. The group called the lion trophy hunt unsustainable, unethical and lacking in transparency. Advocates4Earth also informed the FWS that, in its legal opinion, the Zimbabwean government, by allowing lion trophy hunting, violates the environmental rights of Zimbabwean citizens enshrined in the country’s constitution and potentially violates the spirit of the Law on Lions. Zimbabwe’s parks and wildlife.
The #SaveOurLions The campaign led by young environmental leaders at Advocates4Earth shows that protecting endangered wildlife is a shared global value. It also shatters the fallacy that African communities are in favor of allowing foreign hunters in their countries to slaughter their wild animals.
Mopane’s recent murder and the fact that Cecil’s family and other lions of his pride are potential targets for trophy hunters should be a wake-up call to the public and governments around the world. We know how the story ends if we don’t do everything we can to protect them.
Join us in urging the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the governments of other trophy destination countries to stop importing lion trophies.
Sara Amundson is President of the Legislative Fund of The Humane Society.