Wednesday, July 29, 2015

RIP Cedric

I’m not big on guns. I’m not big on hunting, either, so when I read a small item about a dentist killing a tame lion in Zimbabwe with a bow and arrow, I got pretty upset.
So let’s name names. The hunter—I use the term very loosely here—is Walter James Palmer, a Minneapolis dentist. The lion was a harmless 14-year-old beast named Cedric who lived in a protected habitat and was both well-known and well-loved by Zimbabweans. He was apparently drawn out of this place of safety just far enough so that Dr. Palmer could shoot it. After being informed that Cedric was essentially Zimbabwe’s totem animal, their bald eagle, so to speak. Dr. Palmer said he did not know Cedric was off-limits, which I guess makes it perfectly okay, and that he was sorry. Not sorry enough, I guess, since as of this morning, he has eluded the Zimbabwean authorities and his present whereabouts are unknown. The anti-poaching police are, pardon the expression, hunting for him. I imagine Dr. Palmer is also one of those worthies who pay a fortune to hunt and kill in game parks where animals are kept for that very purpose.

According to USA Today, Palmer paid more than $50,000 for the right to kill Cecil, a big cat well-known at the Hwange National Park, and that wore a GPS collar so his movements could be studied. Palmer and his guides strapped a dead gazelle to their Jeep and lured the lion out of the park’s boundaries. Palmer then shot him with a compound bow but failed to kill the animal. Eventually, Cedric was finished off with a gunshot, then skinned and beheaded. There have been allegations that the hunter and his guides attempted to destroy the animal’s GTPS collar.

The Minnesota dentist has a somewhat unsavory history. In 2006, he killed a black bear outside of a permitted area, then transported the carcass to a registration station where he claimed the bear had been killed legally. That little adventure led to a $3,000 fine. That same year, Dr. Palmer was accused of sexual harassment by his receptionist. A settlement of $127,000 followed, though the doctor admitted no wrongdoing.  Hunting of a different type, I guess. Palmer has also killed leopards, bighorn sheep, and at least one rhinoceros.

I have friends who hunt, and to maintain the friendship, this is a subject we no longer broach. Their opinions are as heartfelt as mine, and they truly believe they are conservationists, as well as sportsmen. I don’t. In fact, the last time I spoke about this blood sport with a hunting acquaintance, I suggested a real sportsman would challenge his prey on an even playing field, that is to say not from a tree stand, a moving vehicle—airplane or truck—or lurking behind a bush. To me, this is simply cowardly and lazy. I also proposed that instead of sophisticated hunting weapons, be they bows, rifles, shotguns or traps, the hunter be armed with a sharp stick of his own making, and large stones that he could hurl at the prey charged.

Take down a large animal that way and my opinion of your courage and sportsmanship might change.



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