Lions are some of the most majestic and honored creatures on the planet. They’ve inherited legendary status in literature and real life. Sadly, that inheritance includes deadly threats from both legal and illegal hunting
The story of Cecil, the lion killed by dentist Walter Palmer in 2015, was still ringing in the ears of big cat advocates and animal lovers around the world when the next branch of his family tree was cut down in similar circumstances.
Cecil’s eldest son was killed outside the boundaries of the Hwange National Park in northwest Zimbabwe. According to the Independent, he was just 6 years old, and had cubs of his own.
At the other end of the rifle, professional hunter Richard Cooke stands accused for Xanda’s death, as well as another one of Cecil’s sons in 2015.
“We can’t believe that now, 2 years since Cecil was killed, that his oldest Cub Xanda has met the same fate,” the Facebook group Lions of Hwange National Park posted Thursday, July 20. “When will the Lions of Hwange National Park be left to live out their years as wild born free lions should?”
As Cooke surrendered Xanda’s electronic collar to researchers from the park, and was outside the boundaries of the park when he killed the lion, he is not being charged with a crime.
“I fitted [the electronic collar] last October,” Andrew Loveridge, and expert from the Department of Zoology at Oxford University, told The Daily Telegraph. “It was monitored almost daily and we were aware that Xanda and his pride was spending a lot of time out of the park in the last six months, but there is not much we can do about that.”
Loveridge claims Cooke is one of the “good guys,” as he followed the hunting law, and returned the collar, but maintained the buffer zone between the park and allowed hunting lands was too thin.
Palmer paid $65,000 to kill Cecil, the Telegraph reports. While Cooke’s fee was slightly less, the damage done to the world’s biological system, where every species from plant matter to apex predators are essential, has only been amplified by the growing scarcity of these creatures.
Big cats are included in a group of large carnivores that have sustained massive losses throughout history. According to a study published in the Royal Society, “large carnivores that have experienced the greatest range contractions include the red wolf (Canis rufus) (greater than 99%), Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis) (99%), tiger (Panthera tigris) (95%) and lion (Panthera leo) (94%).”
The negative long-lasting effects of species decimation are well documented by animal researchers.
“We now have overwhelming evidence that large predators are hugely important in the function of nature, from the deepest oceans to the highest mountains, the tropics to the Arctic,”said William Ripple, a professor of forestry at Oregon State University. “In a broad view, the collapse of these ecosystems has reached a point where this doesn’t just affect wolves or aspen trees, deforestation or soil or water. These predators and processes ultimately protect humans. This isn’t just about them, it’s about us.”