Killer skirts prosecution, but Cecil the Lion’s death will not be in vain

Of all the threats to lions, trophy hunting is the one that can most easily be ended.Three months after Walter Palmer, an American dentist from Minnesota, brutally killed Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, it has been decided that he will not be prosecuted.

Interestingly enough, Palmer’s hunting guide, Zimbabwean national Theo Bronkhorst, was arrested and is already on trial.

It’s not a surprise that Palmer won’t be prosecuted, as hundreds of Americans kill imperiled lions for fun every year.

The fact that Palmer and his guides apparently bent the rules and broke some laws is far less egregious than the actual brutal slaying of Cecil, which they could’ve carried out legally had Cecil strayed outside of the protected area on his own (reports claimed he was lured out with bait). 

The most recent study says there are likely fewer than twenty thousand lions left in the wild. Killing them for fun should not be just another way they die.

More needs to be done to address all the threats to this iconic species—habitat loss, retaliatory killings and, as in the case of the Cecil slaying, trophy hunting, which is of all the threats to lions the one that can most easily be ended.

Every African lion needs every protection available to it right now. 

The US has a real opportunity to make the death of Cecil—and the hundreds of other lions needlessly slain—not be in vain. They can list African lions as Endangered under the US Endangered Species Act, and make sure Americans like Palmer cannot continue to go kill lions for fun and bring their grotesque trophies back to the US.  The US does not need to be a party to this type of senseless killing.

With this in mind, IFAW and our partners will continue to fervently push for all available protections for lions until the king of the jungle gets the royal treatment it so rightly deserves.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
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Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
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Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
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Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
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Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
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Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy