‘Cecil’ the lion; a year later

by Hannes Wessels


It’s just over a year ago that ‘Cecil’ was killed and the world erupted in anger. Four months ago Claudio Chiarelli and his son Max were killed by a National Parks Ranger they had come to assist in Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park in a case of what appears to be mistaken identity. Claudio was a professional hunter and once held the concession for Chirisa Safari Area which until recently was a veritable wildlife paradise. He lost the concession and today the area is desolate, bereft of life and will soon be a sterile dustbowl. It will almost certainly never recover. Like many local safari hunters marginalised by the collapse of commercial hunting triggered in large part by the international outrage following the ‘Cecil the Lion’ debacle, Claudio was trying to help stem the ongoing slaughter in the Zambezi Valley which is motivated by the demand for meat and ivory. Once huge herds of buffalo are now a recent memory and the elephant are being pounded. Left to their own devices the government law enforcement agencies are at best useless and at worst corrupt and part of the problem. Claudio and Max, for no personal reward whatsoever, were doing what they could to help. There was never any question of personal gain; they did it because they, like most true hunters, love the animals they occasionally pursue and kill. It cost them their lives. Unlike the aftermath of the ‘Cecil’ shooting, the media and the liberal ‘do-gooders’ were mostly mute and ignored the fact that these two men died trying to save animals that are under siege in a non-hunting area.

While the deaths of the Chiarellis was an accident there can be little doubt the crime syndicates sponsoring the poaching cheered this development. The unemployed professional hunters who are now poking their noses into the National Parks are a problem the criminals could do without and if this scares them off then the task of wiping out what is left will be made much easier.

There is more for the ‘Cecil the Lion Screamers’ to celebrate. In August last year professional hunter and guide Quinn Swales died in the jaws of an angry lion while protecting his photo-safari clients on a walk in Hwange National Park. Swales and his colleagues knew this male and were well aware he was aggressive but they knew of other, more pressing, existential dangers, again thanks to the media and the charlatans posing as conservationists.

When charged initially by this 400lb killing machine he used a ‘bear-banger’, a pathetically harmless explosive device, to scare the predator off but this did not deter the animal which pressed home the attack and killed Swales while the tourists looked on. His heavy calibre .375 rifle which would have saved him was never fired. Coming merely a month after the world press went into an apoplectic rage over the apparently lawful killing of a lion by an American dentist there is absolutely no doubt Swales’ judgement was impaired by the sure knowledge that his life and that of his wards, was less important than the lion’s and if he pulled the trigger he would join Doctor Walter Palmer and Theo Bronkhorst as the third most loathed man on planet earth. The ‘Screamers’ were quiet when Quinn Swales went to an early grave.

There is more. Throughout southern and central Africa wildlife areas are following the same sad path as Chirisa. Vast areas of marginalised wildlife land is unsuitable for photographic tourism. This may be because the areas lack the ‘big-game’ crowd pullers, varieties are too limited, access is too difficult or there are security concerns. The only hope for the animals in these domains lay with the professional hunters who protected them because nobody else wanted them. Unfortunately the anti-hunting media offensive has been highly effective and the clients who drove the industry are understandably reluctant to risk being publicly pilloried for partaking in a recreational activity that has been branded heinous by the lying mainstream media bullies and their acolytes. So they are staying home, the hunters cannot sustain themselves and therefore the protection is denied. The denouement is certain and it’s very sad.

As for the lions well they also have little to cheer. A conservancy in south-west Zimbabwe is just one private sector initiative that has been highly successful in using managed hunting to drive a profitable business that has also been a marvellous conservation success. To the point that the owners now have a surfeit of lion and sans hunting they have to find a way of reducing the population to prevent a predatory imbalance that will impact negatively on other species in the protected area. Culling has been discussed and alternative avenues are being explored but the fact is viable and sustainable conservation is only foreseeable where it is profitable and if this area can no longer pay its way it too will implode and the game will die.

Claudio and Max were laid to rest outside Harare in the adopted country they passionately embraced. Both were hunters who died for the love of wildlife and wild places. Their numbers are dwindling. When will the ‘Screamers’ fill the void?




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Highly respected, Writer, Blogger, Wildlife Conservationist, Hunter and Father.......