Killing Cecil the lion’s son, Xanda, has dire consequences

Xanda, the 6-year-old son of Cecil, the lion killed by a Minnesota dentist two years ago, has met the same fate as his father. Despite wearing a research collar, the lion was killed by an unnamed hunter on safari.

The killing of Cecil by dentist Walter Palmer outraged thousands around the world and put a spotlight on big game hunting. Palmer, who had paid $50,000 for the safari, was cleared of wrongdoing because authorities believed he did not know the hunt was illegal.

Like his father, Xanda was wearing a research collar, but authorities say the killing was legal. The lion was 6 years old, the minimum age, and along with his pride, the lion had been spending time outside of the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.

A Facebook page, Lions of Hwange National Park, reported the death Thursday, saying it had occurred some days earlier. The organizer of the hunt, Richard Cooke Safaris, reportedly returned the collar to officials at the park.

The group posted a statement on its Facebook page, along with an important question:

“When will the Lions of Hwange National Park be left to live out their years as wild born free lions should?”

Cecil and Xanda are not the first lions at the park to be killed. In the past 15 years, 60 so-called protected lions have been taken by trophy hunters.

But we’re not just talking about one lion, or even 60. Each death extends far beyond one life and into future generations that will never be.

Xanda’s death means there is one less potent male lion to produce offspring for a lion population that is dwindling every year. And his death also likely dooms his offspring. Without him in the pride, another male will take over and as biology drives the new lion to ensure his genes are continued, he will kill Xanda’s children.

The news of Xanda’s death, as it did with his father’s, quickly drew condemnation from animal rights activists and supporters

“The killing of Xanda just goes to show that trophy hunters have learned nothing from the international outcry that followed Cecil’s death,” said Masha Kalinina, international trade policy specialist for Humane Society International. “They continue at a time when lions face a conservation crisis in Africa, with as few as 20,000 lions left in the wild. Xanda was a well-studied lion like this father and critical to conservation efforts in Zimbabwe.”

Kalinina said to stop lions from slipping into extinction, countries such as Zimbabwe should work to keep as many lions alive as possible and shift away from the trophy hunting industry, following the examples of Botswana and Kenya, which ban trophy hunting.

I have friends and family who are hunters, but all of them hunt for food, not for trophies. While big game hunters talk about the thrill, the danger and the excitement of facing a powerful creature while armed with nothing more than 21st century technology, I don’t believe a stuffed head on a wall and an exciting story to tell at parties is worth hunting animals to extinction.

What others are saying

“The senseless and cruel killing of Cecil’s son Xanda is unacceptable. This shows once again that the world must urgently act to protect animals in the wild. The rearing and killing of lions in the name of ‘entertainment’ must end. Trophy hunting often leads to prolonged suffering and fuels demand for wild animal products, leaving them open to further exploitation.

“Africa would benefit much more from an industry based not on hunting but on protecting lions. Kenya, the only African country where trophy hunting is completely outlawed, enjoys a vibrant safari industry, worth around $800 million to the annual economy. Wild animals belong in the wild and should not prop up this sordid industry.”

— Tennyson Williams, Africa Director for World Animal Protection

“Global condemnation of Cecil the lion’s death didn’t diminish trophy hunters’ thirst for blood. Majestic wild animals will continue being slaughtered to boost hunters’ egos and perverse sense of ‘fun’ as long as wildlife slayers with something to prove can ship heads, tails, and skins back home. More than 40 airlines have banned shipment of these grisly trophies, and PETA is calling on UPS to join them.”

— Colleen O’Brien, vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

“Often times we have concerns with this — is the value of that animal who was shot one time equal to the economic benefit that that animal’s sustained existence and draw for tourism would have been over its life to the local and national economies? That’s an ongoing debate between hunters and conservationists.”

— Luke Dollar, conservation biologist and head of National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative

“Xanda was one of these gorgeous Kalahari lions, with a big mane, big body, beautiful condition — a very, very lovely animal. Personally, I think it is sad that anyone wants to shoot a lion, but there are people who will pay money to do that.”

— Andrew Loveridge, Oxford University researcher who studies the Hwange National Park’s lions

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