“What lion?” Zimbabweans ask, amid global Cecil circus

As social media exploded with outrage this week at the killing of Cecil the lion, the untimely passing of the celebrated predator at the hands of an American dentist went largely unnoticed in the animal’s native Zimbabwe.


“What lion?” acting information minister Prisca Mupfumira asked in response to a request for comment about Cecil, who was at that moment topping global news bulletins and generating reams of abuse for his killer on websites in the United States and Europe.

The government has still given no formal response, and on Thursday the papers that chose to run the latest twist in the Cecil saga tucked it away on inside pages.

One title had to rely on foreign news agency copy because it failed to send a reporter to the court appearance of two locals involved.

In contrast, the previous evening 200 people stood in protest outside the suburban Minneapolis dental practice of 55-year-old Walter Palmer, calling for him to be extradited to Zimbabwe to face charges of taking part in an illegal hunt.

Local police are also investigating death threats against Palmer, whose location is not known. Because many of the threats were online, police are having difficulty determining their origins and credibility.

Palmer, a lifelong big game hunter, has admitted killing Cecil with a bow and arrow on July 1 near Zimbabwe’s Hwange national park, but said he had hired professional local guides with the required hunting permits and believed the hunt was legal.

For most people in the southern African nation, where unemployment tops 80 percent and the economy continues to feel the after-effects of billion percent hyperinflation a decade ago, the uproar had all the hallmarks of a ‘First World Problem’.

“Are you saying that all this noise is about a dead lion? Lions are killed all the time in this country,” said Tryphina Kaseke, a used-clothes hawker on the streets of Harare. “What is so special about this one?”

As with many countries in Africa, in Zimbabwe big wild animals such as lions, elephants or hippos are seen either as a potential meal, or a threat to people and property that needs to be controlled or killed.

The world of Palmer, who paid $50,000 to kill 13-year-old Cecil, is a very different one from that inhabited by millions of rural Africans who are more than occasionally victims of wild animal attacks.

According to CrocBITE, a database, from January 2008 to October 2013, there were more than 460 recorded attacks by Nile crocodiles, most of them fatal. That tally is almost certainly a massive underrepresentation.

“Why are the Americans more concerned than us?” said Joseph Mabuwa, a 33-year-old father-of-two cleaning his car in the centre of the capital. “We never hear them speak out when villagers are killed by lions and elephants in Hwange.”

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  1. Yeah apa everybody totally agree. Who is Cecil… a lion and whats so special about this one. A lion is a lion and is very dangerous to human kind. If someone was given permission to hunt the lion its fine. Zimbabwe kana kumbozvitsvaga kana kuzvisvinurira isu.

  2. As much as we mourn our Cecil lion, the killing was brutal and unaurthodox. Most are surprised to learn of Cecil now because visiting these places right in our own country is unaffordable. We only see Cecil’s cousins everytime we run away from these marauding predators when they come for our cattle and goats. Surely domestic tourism should be promoted first so as pple to appreciate the santity of the animals, Cecil included.

  3. Story not balanced. I have seen so many comments from Zimbabweans mostly against the killing. Stereotyping Africans as if they only appreciate wildlife on a table.

  4. africans are funny

    Lest be honest we afrucans are outraged but at least we see the comedy in this situation. Looking at how these foreigners are reacting ma1.

  5. I saw some statistics the other day. Less than 5% of total zimbabwe population have visited Vic falls, 90% of the population know their home town/village and Harare only. 96% of the population have never been to any sort of holiday because they cant afford. And to be honest very very few native africans find any amusement in watching an animal, an animal which is found almost everywhere, unlike these europeans who only get to see them on National Geographic channel or after going for an expensive holiday abroad mostly in Kenya, zimbabwe or SA. In as much as the killing of this Rhodie named lion was brutal, the noise which is being made is over the top. How can i cry for a dead lion when i have no food to give my family, when i have no job.

  6. Ignorance is not a bliss. Wildlife is part of our heritage. We are more informed about trivial political squabbles than things that really matter in the long run. There is little we can be proud of achieving or sustaining, and preserving the wildlife seems to be one area where we have done better than most African countries. That lion was lured out of National Park where he was protected. This is really the issue and that is why all that noise. He was a prime breeding stock, part of a research program and popular with tourist. It is like stealing your family jewels. The world can see it but we cannot because we lost the perspective in our daily struggle to survive. Lion population is on decline, and if we protect them in the wild, our future revenues from national parks are guaranteed. For us, lions can be nuisance but for foreigners, they are one of the animals they come to see in this country. There is so much misery and need for assistance in the world that Zimbabwe with its self-inflicted decades long decline is last on any donor list. Why then should we not care about the fate of asset that was earning revenue for this country?

  7. Very interesting indeed. A whole minister asks: “What lion?” Tells a story, doesn’t it? I think what is at stake here is not the dead lion but the name it carried to its death. CECIL is the big thing here. Who does not remember Cecil John Rhodes in Zimbabwe and beyond? Whoever named Cecil “Cecil” can provide the best clue as to why the lion’s death is newsworthy. Many felines like him died before and will still die the same way but “Cecil” did not have to just die like that! By the way, when is the memorial service? Imagine if the lion carried a name like “Mugabe” of “Karigamombe” …. Icho!

  8. kkkkkk…its just a lion hey….cecil or no cecil, these animals can be so troublesome. so many things to think and worry abt such that this cecil thing was almost a nin event had it not been for those in the so called developed world who know no hunger caused by these wild animals. i wld rather be thinking abt getting my next meal than worry abt a lion…there are still plenty of them here in Zimbabwe and just one is no big deal at all to me. lest make noise abt starving people anmd not dead lions….

  9. kikkkkkk.

  10. Elephants were killed for president’s birthday bash, why the uproar now about Cecil? He did it legally, he flew into Zim & not sneaked into Zim to hunt. Many people suffering in Zimbabwe due to poor governing not because of stupid one animal. Why was there no uproar when 5 elephants killed for a mere birthday party. Zimbabwe!!!! Cry My Belloved Country.

    1. AH

  11. We are told it (ofcourse they prefer we say “he”) brought monies to the tune of $48 000 daily.Is this true?$480 000 in ten days?$4,8million in hundred days?Over $15 million a year?Is this true?Yet animals were dying because no one could sink boreholes in Hwange national park for them.Please note I was ignoring people.Since the animals have suddenly become ICONIC.If animals were not that important then the road into the national park should not have all those potholes.I have in mind the Cross Dete-Detema road,a potholed strip road,in some stretches two bicycles can hardly meet and by-pass each other.How many creches did the money from Cecil build in surrounding areas?how many boreholes?how many street lights?how many bus stops?how many food relief bags of food in the dry region did this money from Cecil ever bought?Why is Cecil more advertised in death more than in life?I bet the people in Hwange do not know about Cecil because it (or “he” as they prefer) never meant anything to their livelihood.Infact in its 13 years this predator Cecil ate a lot of animals which had no “funerals” as colourfuls as ya Cecil uyu.Cecil also ate a lot of donkeys and cows in the area because the game park could not be fenced (at least) from the daily revenues that it generated.Cecil’s love is very disturbing.The love over shadows the job losses news we should be getting.Even the very day this beast died a lot of people died in hospitals due to delapidating standards but who cared…CECIL CECIL CECIL CECILCECIL CECEIL…This is a national hero suitable for paChikomo I suggest

  12. what’s so special about this lion nonsense how about hundreds of people who were murdered by ZANU pf thugs…ndokupererwa uku

  13. The lion called Cecil, the name of an imperialist was being researched by those at Oxford which is located in the former coloniser of Zimbabwe. True lions are important, but just goes to show that the research results or findings were never designed to get back to Zimbabweans and that is why we dont know about it. It was their research in our land and their results after using our resources. Now they scream about the lion’s death which we knew nothing about. It is not that we dont care. We do not even have money to go to Hwange. Not everyone is interested in lions as well. Maybe since we have all the big five we are interested in other animals. Newsday, stop being so racist!!!

  14. It really is great to see some of the posts above and shows Zimbabweans feelings about this ridiculous over played out of proportion idiotic moronic mourning over a 13 year old lion that no Zimbabwean knew about till it got killed because it ventured out of Hwange Park by a client who was licensed to hunt in Zim, and had a $1500 bow permit, and shot a lion with a collar on it which is perfectly legal in Zim, and the only thing that is wrong is that he transferred the lion quota tag from one area to another which has been in order to allow areas to work together with quotas and parks have allowed it.
    This whole issue has been used by the green fools who know nothing about the wildlife law to try and get the world in a frenzy against hunters and unfortunately Zimparks and Oppah have jumped in boots and all and defamed the hunters without letting it be solved in a legal forum. These people are doing more damage than anyone by calling Palmer a “foreign poacher” etc. The may find themselves sued.

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