As the hashtag, Cecil the Lion, tops Twitter’s trends list, and the public evisceration of Walter Palmer reaches a fever pitch, there was a couple of things that nagged my spirit: One, the picture making the rounds of Palmer and another man, mugging for the camera behind a massive lion, is NOT the famed Cecil. It’s troublesome because the image is undoubtedly helping to the fan the flames and reputable sites like The Telegraph and Sky News have used the picture in articles and have not made it clear that the image is from 2005. I get that for many, that fact doesn’t matter. The Twitter mob doesn’t have the burden of journalistic integrity, but those news sites do.
Second, the killing is being investigated because the hunter involved reported it to authorities. A report by the Telegraph had the initially anonymous hunter admitting to killing the lion with a foreign client and later reporting the kill to Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. So, the ensuing charges are not due to some thorough police investigation, but an admittance of fault by the hunters. Why does it matter? Because that means there some level of integrity. The men involved are professional hunters and they must have been well aware of the consequences of illegal hunting. Why admit to killing a famed animal, knowing the possible fallout, if there isn’t some level of honesty there? Whether you have a problem with hunting or not, admitting to something illegal isn’t the habit of people trying to get away with something.
Third, the vast majority of articles that I have read on the subject have quoted Mr. Johnny Rodrigues, head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force. It is his account of events (NOT the police’s, hunters’, Palmer’s or Parks Authority’s) that have been widely reported without much sourcing, including the amount of $50,000 and the specific way in which Cecil was killed, information not given by the police or Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority or Safari Operators Association. So, where is he getting all this information, some of which was later found to be incorrect, from? Not sure Rodrigues or his organization (which is not registered as an official charity/NGO with Zimbabwe’s National Association for Non-Governmental Organizations) have been vetted properly and should be the definite source on this situation, but I’m sure nobody cares about that because that is the last thing on the Twitterverse’s, and apparently, the media’s mind.