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Thursday, 30 July 2015


Dear Wally,

WTF were you thinking when you came into my back yard to shoot an African lion, and not just any lion, but Zimbabwe's most famous lion, Cecil? Did it not occur to you that the reason many lions in Africa have names is because there aren't too many of them left? Fewer in the wild than black rhinos, in fact, and they aren't exactly flourishing.

I have an inkling about what you might have been thinking. Perhaps you were thinking how impressed your family, friends and neigbours would be when they saw a mighty black-maned lion's head on your wall. They'd all think: He's the man!

I can imagine, perhaps, your grandchildren, or nieces and nephews, sitting at your feet in front of the fire one day. One says: "Tell us about the lion's head on the wall, Uncle Wally." (Oh, by the way, 'Wally' is a term of endearment which us Anglophiles use to mean 'dickhead'. Could be an unfortunate coincidence. Just saying.) 

So you regale them with tales of bravery and great cunning: "Well, we cleverly threw down lion food and lured Cecil out of his sanctuary, the Hwange National Park, because then we could say we thought we were allowed to shoot him. I shot him with a poisoned arrow, because then we had the thrill of hunting a wounded, suffering lion for two days. When we found him again, out of a sense of goodness we just had to put him out of his misery." You might continue: "And you know why this was a good thing? Well it's because I didn't think too highly of myself before I did that. I didn't think I was manly enough. I thought others didn't like me and this would make them impressed and like me more and it would make me seem very manly. You do think I'm manly, don't you? And I did feel a whole lot better about myself when I saw the photograph of me posing with the lion.

You might leave out the part that now most of the world hates you. You might also leave out the part that you contributed to destroying the wildlife heritage of Africa. My heritage. And that of my children and their children. We don't choose to live in Africa because we have to. We choose to live here because of the treasures we have, and we sure as heck didn't ask you to come here and destroy them.

Perhaps one day, when there are no lions (or indeed any animals) left, your great-grandchildren will come home from a history class and ask their parents: "Is it really true that Uncle Wally helped destroy all the animals?"

Anyway, Wally, I think your money was well invested and you must be well pleased. Most advertising agencies will tell you that you can't buy publicity like you've had for the $50,000 you paid to kill Cecil. It's a shame that the publicity may not have been quite what you had in mind, but as the stars say: "Any publicity is good publicity."

From my side, I just wanted to say that you aren't welcome in Africa, unless it's to come and personally offer a public apology and commit yourself to the conservation effort, but I somehow guess that isn't going to happen.

Anyway, assuming you won't be coming back, perhaps you should in the meantime concentrate on luring your neighbours' dogs out of their yards with food and then shooting them: it might not win you any more friends, but it sure should enhance your manliness and self-esteem.

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