The death of Cecil’s son, Xanda at the hands of trophy hunters on 7 July is mired in confusion. He was shot just outside Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, near the spot his father had been killed by American bow hunting dentist, Walter Palmer.
It was claimed that Xanda was shot legally as part of an approved quota – seven lions are allowed to be hunted per year in the area outside the park. Yet, like the death of his father, questions have been raised surrounding the circumstances of Xanda’s death. The lion just six years old was considered fair game however, he had a GPS collar and was the head of a pride with several cubs that resided within the protection of the national park that prohibits hunting.
A statement released by the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association stated that Xanda had been ousted from his pride and had moved permanently out of the park. However, this is contradicted by researchers from the University of Oxford who had been tracking Xanda, and say that the six-year old lion was the head of his own pride consisting of three lionesses and had seven young cubs between 12 and 18 months old.
It also seems clear that Xanda’s killing contravenes the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority policy, which states that male lions of any age known to be heading prides or known to be part of a coalition heading prides with dependent cubs of 18 months old or less, should not be hunted. Neither should any lion fitted with a collar.
As a result, Humane Society International (HSI), has sent a letter to Oppah Muchinguri, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Environment, Water and Climate of Zimbabwe, calling on her government to investigate these irregularities.
Audrey Delsink, Executive Director of Humane Society International/Africa, said: “With so many irregularities shrouding the killing of Xanda, we urge the Government of Zimbabwe to hold the people involved in his death accountable if they are found to have acted in an illegal manner.”
The death of Xanda also means that his seven offspring face an unlikely future. “Sadly, Xanda’s death means his cubs are vulnerable to infanticide leading to further unnecessary loss of animals already threatened with extinction,” says Delsink.
Currently, there are fewer than 30,000 lions left in Africa whose range has been reduced to 8 percent of their former range primarily as a result from loss of habitat, poaching and poorly regulated trophy hunting. A report conducted by Economists at Large found that trophy hunting is not economically significant in African countries, with the total economic contribution of trophy hunters at most estimated at 0.03 percent of gross domestic product in the countries studied.
Delsink says this latest incident in Zimbabwe “just highlights further the destructive nature of the trophy hunting industry. At minimum, Zimbabwe must conduct a full investigation and not allow Xanda’s remains to leave the country as a trophy.”
The HSI letter has also requested that Zimbabwe officials bring legal action against the trophy hunters if warranted, prevent the export of the trophy and establish a five-kilometer no-hunting zone around Hwange National Park.